Major anti-crime measures move step closer to vote in Texas Senate

At the State Capitol, a plea from Harris County's top prosecutor for Senate Bill 402, a measure forcing local judges to prioritize bringing to trial rapidly those accused of murder.

"In total, this number of 1875 is, in essence, a city of murderers within a city of law-abiding citizens," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of the unresolved homicide cases.

MORE: State Democrats push for common sense gun reform | Are Texas GOP Leaders targeting Harris County and Houston

Ogg says chronic procrastination by those on the bench scheduling murder suspects for trial is making a terrible situation, even worse.  

"At 52 (cases resolved) out of 500 being filed a year, it will take me 10 years just to dig out of the backlog of 2022," said Ogg. "Add that to my existing backlog and Houston we have a problem. We need help."

Backing the District Attorney before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee were the families of those killed who have been forced to wait years for the accountability only a murder trial can bring.

"Three and a half years went by mental anguish, hurt, pain, unsolved issues, trying to sleep at night," said Alma Allen whose son was murdered. "That was drastic."

SUGGESTED: De-Escalation Training Act: New law looks to bridge gap between police, citizens

"When is this going to end five, six seven years later, sitting in court shaking, because I'm going to see the face of the young man who did this to her," said Leticia Ybarra whose daughter was murdered.

SB 402 advanced to the full Senate on a unanimous vote.

"I can't imagine anyone not seeing the merit in putting murderers and Capital murderers at the front of the line to be held accountable," said John Whitmire, longtime Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and the bill's sponsor.

"Unfortunately, our criminal justice system in Harris County, it's embarrassing," added Houston State Senator Boris Miles.

"I don't know at what point we got so soft, but these criminals are not soft on us," testified April Aguirre whose been advocating for criminal justice accountability since the killing of her niece more than a year ago.

RELATED: Houston violent crimes decreased in 2022, says Police Chief Troy Finner

Also advancing to the full Senate for approval, a proposed Constitutional Amendment granting Texas Judges broader authority to hold violent criminal defendants without bond.

The measure drew fire from those who view criminal courts as racially and economically biased.

"This is happening without the other side of the coin, without remedy or relief for those who are poor or on the other side of this system, who are still being jailed improperly, who are still being jailed en masse, at immense harm to them their families and their communities," said Chris Harris with the Austin Justice Coalition.


In addition, the full Texas Senate will vote on SB 1004 would make the removal of a court-ordered ankle monitor a felony offense.