HOUSTON — It’s the worst crime in Texas and the only one punishable by death, yet some capital murder defendants are able to bond out of jail and allegedly commit other crimes, according to a KHOU 11 Investigates analysis of Harris County district court records.
“Why? It just doesn’t make sense in my head,” Lourdes Medina said.
Her 71-year-old mother Martha Medina was robbed of her purse, then run over and killed in September outside a McDonald’s in northeast Houston.
The suspect, Andrew Rehernard Williams, 40, was out on the street after making bond on a previous capital murder charge.
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“I’m very angry, I’m frustrated at the decisions you’re making as a judge,” Medina said.
Carjacking victim Manuela Mona was frustrated too after learning suspect Horace Marquese Harris, 22, who allegedly pistol whipped her before stealing her car, also had a pending capital murder charge.
“It’s sad that people let them free, once they got them in jail,” Mona said.
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Many more got out of jail too.
KHOU 11 Investigates analyzed 407 capital murder charges filed in Harris County between September 2016 and September 2021. During those five years, records show 113 or 28%, bonded out of jail. Of those out on the street, 30 or 27% got arrested for another crime.
Bank robbery suspect Marcus Deon Virgin, 19, was one of them. Court records alleged in May, he entered a First Convenience Bank Branch inside a southeast Houston Kroger store and handed the teller a note reading “Give me all the money in both registers or I’m a start shooting.”
“There is evidence that he was involved in additional robberies that were taking place in (Georgia and Florida),” said Investigator Ryan Hilz with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and a member of a local violent crimes task force.
During the five years analyzed, court records reveal seven capital murder suspects were charged with robbery, another eight with assault, and three with another murder all while out on bond. Other new crimes allegedly committed by capital murder suspects include drug and weapons charges, evading arrest and possession of child pornography.
“It’s very concerning, it’s concerning for everybody involved,” said Houston Police Sergeant Larry Gibson, who also works on the violent crimes task force. “Guys out on capital murder bonds, they just don’t have the fear. So they’re like, ‘I’m out on this. If I get caught, well, I’m already on bond for murder, what do I have to lose?’”
KHOU 11’s legal analyst said how bond is set out can be a complicated process.
“So in the beginning, the judge has the discretion to zero or no bond a capital suspect,” Attorney Carmen Roe said.
But that sole authority doesn’t last forever, according to Roe and other legal experts. Once the accused is indicted, defense attorneys can request a bond and what’s known as a “proof evident” hearing. At that hearing, prosecutors must show the defendant is likely to be found guilty and confirm they are seeking the death penalty.
“After indictment where the death penalty is not sought, which is not that common these days, these judges are required by law to set a reasonable bond,” Roe said.
She said what’s reasonable is based on information the judge hears from sides.
Records show the amount varies—from $500,000 bonds posted down to just $500. The average was $160,000.
Andrew Rhernard Williams, the alleged killer of Martha Medina got out of jail on $150,000 bond for his capital murder charge.
“It frustrates me and angers me,” her daughter Lourdes Medina said. “This could have been prevented, had the right decisions been taken it totally could have been prevented.”