‘It’s not moving quick’: Nearly 800 people charged with murder or capital murder in Harris Co. jail are waiting for trial

HOUSTON – A new legislation proposal hopes to address the backlog of court cases statewide by prioritizing murder and capital murder cases.

If passed, the law would mandate judges to take up those cases first.

“You can hardly grieve because you’re worried about what’s going to happen, what’s the next step, is this guy going to get time, is he going to be convicted? I mean, it’s hard,” said Medisha Bush, who is waiting for a resolution in her son’s murder case.

Greg Shead was shot and killed outside a bowling alley last August.

“This is the worst thing in my life, and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody else,” Bush said. “I come to talk to him every day, every month and on his death day, we release balloons.”

Dallas police arrested 30-year-old Dionate Banks in connection to Shead’s case. Banks is out on bond.

Bush says she and Banks were both in court last week for a hearing. She said prosecutors told her it will take time before a decision is made in Shead’s case.

“They’re basically telling us that we’ll be in and out of court all year, but nothing is going to be finalized for another year or two.”

Her family, like many others, are waiting for their cases to move through the Harris County Criminal Courts.

District Attorney Kim Ogg said the wait can sometimes last years.

“We look at the rate of murders occurring,” Ogg said. “We look at the rate of murders being filed, and we look at the rate of murders being finally resolved, and when your resolved rate is a lot lower than your intake rate, that’s a backlog. And Harris County doesn’t need a backlog of murders. Right now, with over 1,800 cases pending, there’s a city full of murderers inside of our city awaiting finality on their cases.”

At the Harris County jail, a sheriff spokesperson says there are 244 people with capital murder charges and 549 charged with murder waiting for trial.

“It is extremely difficult for the family to understand and live with. They’re stuck in the moment while the defendant, if he’s on bond, has gone on with his life. It’s just unfair,” Ogg said. “So, we need our legislators to prioritize these cases in Harris County so we can move the backlog of our most violent offenders through the system and on to the penitentiary or if they’re innocent, not guilty.”

State Senator John Whitmire, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and author of SB 402, said - if passed and signed into law - it would mandate judges prioritize murder and capital murder cases.

“We have a serious backlog of cases,” Whitmire said. “It’s creating a huge problem at our jail, which is overcrowded and dangerous.”

Next week, the legislature’s criminal justice committee will take up the bill.

“It helps victims. It helps the defendant resolve his or her case,” Whitmire said. “It will help public safety. Many of them are out on the streets of Houston waiting to go to trial.”

Until something changes, Bush says she will sit in every courtroom until her son’s case is resolved.

“It’s not moving quick. It’s little baby steps at a time,” Bush said. “We’re trying to trust the process and have our faith in the system that everything goes as planned, but it’s hard to grieve when you have so many other concerns.”

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