The articles below exemplify issues associated with the conflation of arrest with guilt, sensationalized use of PR bonds and bond status, the conflation of misdemeanor and felony bond reform, linkage of a “crime wave” to bond reform, the use of extreme stories to link bond reform to bad outcomes, misrepresentation of the purpose of bond, targeting of individual judges for their bond decisions, an assumption that poor defendants are more dangerous than wealthy defendants, and other insinuations about legally innocent people.
Scroll over the underlined text to read the authors' commentary. Please note: This webpage functionality will work best on a desktop and may not appear on mobile browsers. The case studies and authors' notes are available on pages 12-20 of the full report PDF.
KHOU: ‘Enough is enough': Caitlynne’s Law would change bond system that puts violent criminals back on Houston streets
Caitlynne Guajardo was 20 and pregnant when her husband, who was out on multiple bonds, allegedly stabbed her 20 times, killing her and her unborn baby.
Author: Michelle Homer
Published: 4:30 PM CST February 1, 2021
Updated: 10:46 AM CST February 2, 2021
HOUSTON — Since her daughter’s murder in 2019, Melanie Infinger has been on a mission to change a revolving door bond system that puts violent criminals back on Harris County streets.
Caitlynne was 20 and pregnant when her estranged husband, who was out on multiple bonds, allegedly stabbed her 20 times, killing her and her unborn baby.
Alex Guajardo had been arrested a few days before the murder after allegedly assaulting Caitlynne and torturing and killing her cat.
When the assault happened, Guajardo was already out on another PR bond for his second DWI.
“When I found out she was murdered, after the numbness and the shock and the denial and the sadness and the pain, I was just angry because I wanted to know who bonded him out," Infinger said Monday at a news conference announcing Caitlynne’s Law.
“These PR bonds are being handed out like popcorn. It has to stop,” Infinger said. “These criminals are laughing at our Harris County justice system. Criminals who are violent belong behind bars.”
Andy Kahan, Crime Stoppers' Director of Victim Services & Advocacy, has also been sounding the alarm about the broken bond system for months.
The issues stem partly from a lawsuit challenging the county’s cash bail system that often discriminated against the poor and people of color. Before that lawsuit led to bond reform, defendants on misdemeanors could spend months in jail because they didn’t have money to post bond.
"The ramifications of felony bond reform have taken their toll on our citizens.Felony bond reform has not taken place in Harris County. Although this article clarifies that reform stemmed from the misdemeanor bond lawsuit, it still tends toward conflation of misdemeanor and felony bond reform. In quoting Kahan's criticisms of "felony bond reform," the article suggests that felony bond reform has taken place or that the misdemeanor lawsuit has affected felony case processing.
Texas Senator Paul Bettencourt is the sponsor of Caitlynne’s Law. It would require judges to:
- Stop issuing PR bonds to suspects who’ve already had one
- Set a minimum bond of $10,000 for anyone who’s had three or more felony charges
Bettencourt stressed this is an issue that affects everyone.
“It’s time for the entire community to come together. We can’t let this continue,” he said. “Judges stop releasing these people! It’s killing people in the community. Stop it!”
Melanie Infinger said she had begged Caitlynn to press charges against her husband and was so proud of her when she did.
They never dreamed a judge would release him within days.
“Obviously, your world stops. The pain is unimaginable. She wasn’t just my daughter, she was my best friend," Infinger said.
She hopes the bill, if passed, will help prevent others from going through the nightmare shared by her family.
Pasadena police say Guajardo confessed to killing his wife. He told them he purposely stabbed her in the stomach multiple times to make sure the unborn baby died, too.
Guajardo is charged with capital murder for the deaths of Caitlynne and their unborn baby. He remains in the Harris County Jail with no bond.
“If you would tell me I’d be in a major U.S. city and violent criminals would get out in Texas on $100 bonds, I would have said you’re crazy,” the chief said.
Author: Michelle Homer, Jeremy Rogalski
Published: 1:26 PM CST November 20, 2020
Updated: 6:07 PM CST November 20, 2020
HOUSTON — The number of homicides in Houston is up an alarming 44% compared to this time last year.
For perspective, the current murder numbers surpass yearly totals dating back to 2007, when the city recorded 351 murders. We’re already up to 350 with more than five weeks to go.
Police Chief Art Acevedo said Friday that a "perfect storm" is to blame.
- Gang crime and drug-related murders account for some of the increase.
- COVID-19 is also a key factor, as people struggle with the stress of a pandemic.
“If you witness a murder, and you’re seeing time and again that the murderer is going in one door and, a day or two later, they’re back out, our level of cooperation is quickly going down,” Acevedo said. “People are afraid, and they should be afraid.”
Andy Kahan, a victims’ advocate with Crime Stoppers, is also frustrated.
Kahan gave several examples, including the recent case of Jon Parfait. Two weeks after Parfait was released on bond, he was arrested for the shooting death of 39-year-old Danielle Bradley.
Acevedo said bond reform should be the top issue for the Texas legislature next year because other cities are dealing with the same issues as Houston.
Acevedo wants judges to use a risk-based tool when setting bond based on three factors:
- Flight risk
- Risk of reoffending
- Threat to public safety
Acevedo also addressed a report questioning why so many homicides in Houston are going unsolved. The chief said they’ve beefed up the number of homicide investigators and are using funding from the city to pay for their overtime, but it will take years to catch up.
The two bright spots in the city’s violent crime trends are a decrease in rape and robbery, which are down 20 percent and 5 percent respectively.
FOX 26: Breaking Bond: One year after 80-year-old grandmother is murdered by a repeat violent offender
Breaking Bond: Dozens of murders linked to repeat violent offenders
Author: Randy Wallace
HOUSTON - You would think the savage murder of 80-year-old Rosalee Cook a year ago would have been a call for action for Harris County’s Criminal Justice System.
Instead, District Court judges pushed the revolving door even harder spitting out repeat violent offenders to wreak even more havoc.
On a bright sunny Saturday in May of 2020, Cook was stabbed to death while walking to her car in a Walgreens parking lot.
"It was disbelief," said Rosalee’s son Chuck Cook. "I kept saying over and over my mother was killed that makes no sense to me."
A year has passed and 115 Harris County residents have been killed allegedly by repeat violent offenders free from jail on multiple felony or PR bonds. 80 of those killings happened after Rosalee Cook’s murder.
"And we haven’t changed one bit;" her son said.
Take 178th Criminal District Court Judge Kelli Johnson.
Last December, she gave 29-year-old Aaron Chissom, a felony PR bond for a charge of felon in possession of a weapon.
He failed to appear in court so he went back to jail.
"In hindsight, what I’d, it was 5 days later, what if he was still in custody, this gentleman would be alive today," Kahan said.
182nd Criminal District Court Judge Danny Lacayo freed 28-year-old Darius Jackson from jail five times with felony cash bonds. Then Judge Lacayo gives him a freebie. A PR bond.
"How on Earth can you justify getting a PR bond when you’re already out on five felony bonds," said Kahan.
Jackson is now a wanted fugitive after shooting a woman 11 times.
"What I want to see is laws passed that hold these judges accountable," Chuck Cook said. "That gives some common sense criteria to bond reform."
Fox 26: Judge frees repeat violent offender by granting 16 bonds, takes no action against convicted sex offender
A Harris County Criminal District Judge has freed a repeat violent offender by granting him a total of 16 bonds. That same judge took no action against a convicted sex offender who's now a wanted fugitive. FOX 26 Houston’s Randy Wallace tells us more in his ongoing Breaking Bond segment.
Author: Randy Wallace
Andrew Cruz is only 23 but he already has an array of mug shots.
"Of which 6 are for Aggravated felonies including 4 aggravated robberies with a deadly weapon aggravated assault," Kahan said.
Last Fall the DA’s office filed a motion asking Judge Hill to revoke Cruz’s bond and put him in jail.
"A month later for some inexplicable reason there’s no documentation the court gives him another bond," Kahan said.
"We arrest these violent offenders put them in jail over and over again and the courts continue to let them out," said Griffith.
Cruz is free from jail on bonds totaling $300,000. That means he had to come up with around $30,000. Now guess who's paying for his attorney.
"You and I - the taxpayers are and that makes no sense," said Kahan.
Even more troubling than Cruz is 23-year-old Carlos Martinez, a registered sex offender. In 2018 Judge Josh Hill put Martinez on deferred probation for 5 years for sexual assault of a child.
Martinez has spent his time on probation picking up 6 new criminal charges including aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. The DA's office repeatedly asked Judge Hill to revoke Martinez’s probation and sentence him to prison for 5 to 99 years. Hill let Martinez remain free.
"Now we have no clue where Carlos Martinez is he’s now a wanted fugitive," Kahan said.
"That just blows my mind," said Griffith.
These case studies are part of a report on media bias in bond coverage called "The Real 'Bond Pandemic': Misinformation, False Narratives, and Bias in the Media." The full report is available here.