Reported the Chron's Lise Olsen:
The videos of hearings recorded in May right before the lawsuit was filed show that each case takes just minutes. Some get seconds.
Almost no one wins pretrial release. Not the mentally ill. Not first-time offenders. Not people who dare to address the judges and request consideration because of poverty, jobs or parenting duties.
Hearings are not attended by defense attorneys; typically just prosecutors and hearing officers are present.
Activists argue that Harris County should provide both defense attorneys and alternatives at bond hearings for the mentally ill and for first-time or youthful offenders, and expand the use of personal bonds.Two of the judges in these videos, Hagstette and Licata, weren't satisfied with denying defendants bond, they had to lord their authority over them. Licata increased a woman's bail because she answered "Yeah" instead of "yes." Pleas of special family circumstances or potential lost jobs fell on deaf ears. One defendant tried to explain why he should be released was told by the judge to save it for his defense attorney. Of course, the whole point of the lawsuit is that indigent defendants don't get a defense attorney at bail hearings, so the man had no one to represent him before the court to whom the judge would listen.
By all accounts, judges in Harris County are doubling down on litigation, throwing big bucks at private attorneys to defend these practices instead of reforming their probably unconstitutional bail system. It's hard to understand, after seeing these difficult-to-watch videos, what greater good or core values they think they're defending.
MORE: From the Houston Chronicle.