Trust Index: KPRC 2 News puts ad targeting Democratic Harris County Judge through trust index

HOUSTON – It’s an ad airing frequently on Houston airwaves this election season, targeting Harris County’s Democratic judges and one that caught Houston mayor Sylvester Turner’s attention, as well.

Last Wednesday, the mayor tweeted: “This political ad running against Democratic judges stating Houston has more murders than Chicago is a LIE. As of last week, Chicago had 180 more murders than Houston. The ad should be pulled and the stations should NOT run it.”

The ad is paid for by the Judicial Fairness Political Action Committee. One of the many claims it makes is Houston has more homicides than Chicago.

The ad cites a news report from January by another Houston television station that said, at the time, Chicago had 36 homicides compared to Houston’s 38.

But the latest crime statistics show Chicago has surpassed Houston since the start of the year with 528 murders compared to Houston’s 354.

As a result, we’re rating this claim not true.

Another claim made in the ad is that murders have nearly doubled since Democratic judges won office in 2018.

The ad attributes this claim to statistics from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, the county’s medical examiner’s office. But numbers provided to us by that same agency show from 2017 to 2021, homicides in Harris County went from 455 to 720, an increase of 38%, but not nearly doubled as the ad states.

This claim is also rated as not true.

A line claiming the Democratic judges have created a “revolving door” of violent repeat offenders cites the Harris County District Attorney’s Office as the source for an infographic showing the number of violent repeat offenders released on bond, but when asked to confirm the numbers, Dane Schiller, a spokesperson told KPRC 2 News, “We as a government agency are prohibited from engaging in any political activity nor would it be appropriate for us to comment in any way on a political action.”

KPRC 2 News requested the data from the D.A.’s office to see for ourselves, but because we don’t have it yet and the D.A.’s office won’t verify the claims made in the ad, we’re saying to be careful with this claim.

“One Democratic judge wants to abolish prisons and defund police.”

The ad closes with a focus on one specific judge who “wants to abolish prisons and defund police”. The person pictured wearing a “Defund Police” t-shirt is Harris County Criminal Court at Law 8 judge Franklin Bynum who was elected in 2018. He is a self-identified Democratic Socialist who in a profile with The Nation called himself a “prison abolitionist”. But Bynum lost his re-election bid in the March primary and will not be on the bench come January 2022, so this claim is also rated be careful.

Because this ad contains information that was either never true, is no longer true, or is not fully backed up, it has an overall rating of “Be Careful” on the trust index.