The murder suspect — identified only as Anthony M — is now
back in jail in Fort Bend County after being released from Giddings on
March 29 because he had turned 19 and could no longer be held in a state
Officials conceded he should have been held for Fort Bend County authorities
on the murder charge, but was not because an employee did not properly
review all the paperwork before he was released to his mother. The employee
has been suspended for three days, they said.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, called
for a full investigation of the mistaken release — which he said
he caused several witnesses in the murder case to stop talking to police
— and why the certified adult was even at Giddings in the first place.
“This is the second time in just a couple of months where a youth
who is certified to stand trial on serious felony charges as an adult
has been returned to a state juvenile facility,” Whitmire said.
“That should not happen. This guy spent months and months mingled
with younger offenders at Giddings who are there for much less serious
offenses. That should not happen.
“This is nuts. It’s got to stop.”
In January, a 17-year-old youth who had been certified as an adult and
served time in El Paso’s adult jail was sent to a state juvenile
lockup in Mart, where he critically beat up another youth. He is now back
in an adult jail awaiting trial as an adult on the new charges, officials said.
Jim Hurley, a spokesman for the state juvenile-justice agency, said Anthony
M was received by the agency from Fort Bend County in May 2011 after violating
probation on a gun-theft charge. Fort Bend County investigators took custody
of the youth in January 2012, and he remained out of state custody until
August 2012, state officials said.
An internal Texas Juvenile Justice Department report obtained by the Statesman
shows that a Fort Bend County juvenile judge “assigned an agreed
bail in the amount of $100,000 on the charge of murder for youth AM. In
the same document the judge orders that youth AM be transferred forthwith
to Giddings State School to complete his duties and responsibilities to
his juvenile delinquency finding.”
When the youth completed his indeterminate sentence in the youth lockup,
which ended when he turned 19 because the agency cannot hold youths any
older than that, he was to have been returned to Fort Bend County on the
murder case, the report states.
Hurley said his agency did not know the youth had been certified to stand
trial as an adult, a legal distinction that means they are to be held
in adult jails. Instead, the youth returned to Giddings on Aug. 22, 2012
— along with a notice that Fort Bend County officials were to get
custody of him after his sentence ended.
On March 29, he “aged out” of the juvenile-justice agency and
was released to his mother, Hurley said. Fort Bend officials learned of
that three days later, and were not happy.
The youth was apprehended in Houston on April 2, and is now back in jail,
While in the state juvenile lockups, Hurley said the youth logged 30 write-ups
for violating rules — including five fights while at Giddings, which
has been plagued by gang-related unrest off and on for the past several
years. Hurley said those fights were “before and after” the
youth was taken back to Fort Bend County to face the murder charge.
“Obviously, it’s not an optimal situation to have a youth certified
as an adult on a murder charge to be housed with the other youths,”
Hurley said. “But there was a court order assigning him to TJJD,
so we had to take him.”
On Friday, Whitmire said officials in Fort Bend County and Missouri City,
where the murder allegedly occurred, were still fuming. Missouri City
Police Lt. Paul Poulton, who oversees the department’s criminal
investigation unit, said the youth is charged with shooting to death another
youth during a fight with a rival gang in the summer of 2010.
“We were told he was accidentally released due to some clerical error,” he said.
For his part, Whitmire said the episode highlights again how serious supervision
problems remain at the state’s juvenile justice agency. He said
he has asked agency chief Mike Griffiths to fully investigate what happened.
“We continue to see serious dysfunction at this agency, but the courts
on Fort Bend County were pretty callous, as well, in this case that involves
a very serious mistake,” he said. “I wonder how many certified
adult offenders are being co-mingled with youths that we don’t even
know about yet?”