1,301 Homicide Cases Backed Up in Houston Courts

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Rosie Peña thought her daughter’s 2017 homicide in Houston was a closed case from the start. Linda Cardona’s boyfriend told police he shot her in a domestic violence incident at home, and Ricardo Olivarez pleaded guilty more than two years later. Then, he withdrew his plea and a judge released him on bond. The criminal case is still working through the court system, the Houston Chronicle reports. Olivarez is one of 1,301 defendants awaiting resolution on murder or capital murder charges in Harris County’s courts. The cases have piled up over the past three years, starting with Hurricane Harvey’s closure of the courthouse and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jury trials have been delayed until at least October, and even those could be limited, adding to the frustration for all involved in the process. “There’s no faith in the justice system,” said Veronica Smart, Cardona’s sister. “There’s no justice system, not like that.”

Even before Hurricane Harvey and COVID disrupted the system, the courts hovered around 1,000 defendants with unresolved murder or capital murder cases. That number has since risen to 1,301 defendants as of early July. The state has prohibited jury trials until Oct. 1, with some exceptions, and the county is still determining ways to resume trials safely when that day comes. The threat of jury trials is what drives cases to resolution and pleas, furthering the backlog, said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Musick. The backup has long irked Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who said nationwide attention on law enforcement practices also needs to stretch to the courts. The cases go back years. Steven Hobbs, a former security guard accused of raping or killing six prostitutes, tops the list as the Harris County Jail inmate with the longest wait for trial: He was arrested in 2011.

One thought on “1,301 Homicide Cases Backed Up in Houston Courts

  1. I just watched ‘The First 48’ episode about Steven Hobbs. When a program is over, and if they found the offender and they are imprisoned I go the State Corrections website to find them now. I went to Texas’s and he wasn’t there so I did a search and found this article. That loser has been in a county jail for 10 years?! That has to be some kind of record. From what I understand these institutionalized criminals (of which Hobbs has become) would much rather be in State prison than county jail. Sitting and waiting for trial for 10 years in county lockup must be close to unbearable. Which is a good thing in this guy’s case. They have DNA evidence he can’t refute. So the longer he suffers in county lockup the better. I believe in life imprisonment over the death penalty. From my perspective if I did something so heinous that deserved the death penalty, but I got life w/out parole instead. I would petition the courts for the death penalty for myself. Life is about the quality of it. Being locked in prison knowing there’s no way in hell you ever will be released, I would rather be dead. Everyone gets there anyway, why let them off easy by humanely executing them? If you haven’t noticed life pretty much sucks anyway.

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