New Harris County Misdemeanor Court Guidelines Under Fire After Murder of Pregnant Wife
Harris county officials are still giddy over new bail guidelines even after it was revealed that accused murderer Alex Guajardo was first released for free under new bail rules after assaulting his wife only to then tragically stab to his wife and unborn child to death less than 48-hours later.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Praises New Court Rules
Bail setting in Harris County Misdemeanor Court operates according to new operating procedures enacted and signed by the Hon. Darrell Jordon on January 17, 2019. These rules were fashioned after the 2018 election in order to move toward a settlement of the ODonnell v. Harris County bail reform federal civil rights case and decrease the use of money bail in the system.
Enter defendant Alex Guajardo to test the new safe, evidence-based system everyone wanted to create.
On Sunday, May 5, 2019, Guajardo was arrested for his second DUI and failure to stop (eluding). He was later released on a personal bond of $2,000. Personal bond = no money or third party required for release, only a “promise” to appear.
On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, Guajardo was charged with misdemeanor assault against his wife, who was 16 weeks pregnant at the time. According to Pasadena police, Guajardo also killed the family cat during an outburst at the home. He was released the next day on the assault charge on another personal bond of $5,000. Again, Mr. Guajardo didn’t actually have to post any bail money. Instead, he promised to pay $5000 if he later didn’t show up for court. In other words, if he decided he didn’t want to go to court, he would never have to pay the $5,000 (note in the court record that the public defendant wanted him to promise to only forfeit $2,000 if he failed to show for court). Turns out he had no intention of going to court.
Court records show that only did he not have to post any bail money or seek family or a third party to enlist a bail agent to secure release, his only fee was $150 – which is not even a prerequisite to his release on a charge of assaulting his 16-week pregnant wife on July 31. The case was assigned to newly-elected Judge Shannon Baldwin. Court records show that Judge Baldwin did not actually decide or set the bail in this case—that appears to have been left to Magistrate Jim Callan, who actually signed the release on a personal recognizance bond with the $150 fee.
Three days later on August 3, 2019, Guajardo stabbed his wife 20 times in the stomach killing her and their unborn child.
So, what policy was Magistrate Callan following when he set bail in this case on July 31? That would be the new bail procedures set by Judge Jordan to which we referred. What do those say? Well, they say all defendants with some exceptions should be released on a “promise to appear” and not have to post bond in order to be released. However, according to the rules, “unaffordable bail” may be imposed in a small set of cases – what the judges told the media was going to be about 15% of all cases heard under the new policy. Unaffordable bail in this case would have been an amount that resulted in the detention of Mr. Guajardo pending trial, meaning he would not have gone on to kill his cat, unborn child, and wife.
Here from Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger on the Guajardo case and new Harris County Bail Rules.
The million-dollar question is was Mr. Guajardo’s charged offense one that allows for the imposition of “unaffordable bail?” Here is what the policy includes for domestic violence offenses not involving violation of a restraining or protection order:
Individuals arrested and charged with violating Section 22.01 of the Texas penal code against a person described in 22.01(b)(2), or individuals arrested pursuant to 22.01(c)(1).
22.01(b)(2) cases are those involving victims that involve family members, including spouses. Mr. Guajardo appears to have been charged with such violations by striking his spouse with his hand, as the charging document reads. Thus, Mr. Guajardo appeared eligible for “unaffordable bail.”
Enter District Attorney and bail reformer Kim Ogg and her softer but gentler DA’s office. According to one article she was an ardent supporter of bail reform in her campaign of 2016, saying that misdemeanor cases should never get a bail more than $15,000. In addition:
Ogg filed a brief in support of bail reform in 2017 and celebrated the district judge’s ruling, saying, “From now on, people can’t be held in jail awaiting trial on low-level offenses, just because they are too poor to make bail. … We welcome the ruling and will comply fully with it.”
Yet, what did Ogg’s office do? Court records show that her office requested a $5,000 bail be imposed by Judge Baldwin for the original domestic violence case where Mr. Guajardo was arrested on July 31.
The Judge elected to handle this case, Judge Shannon Baldwin never heard the matter according to court records. This begs the question—if 15% of the most dangerous people are supposed to get “unaffordable bail,” should not the judges the people elected be making that decision? Instead, as it turns out, Mr. Guajardo was in jail for what appears no more than roughly 24-hours. Court records show that a protective order was entered against Mr. Guajardo, who then simply walked free on a personal bond. In fact, his personal bond was set by the magistrate at 3:07 a.m. on August 1, which was mere hours after his first arrest. The documents also show that Guajardo did not request a public defender to represent him and had filed a sworn financial affidavit.
At the end of the day, the prosecutor sought a bail of $5,000 and an unelected magistrate set a personal bond and allowed a defendant who had assaulted his pregnant wife and had a protection order to leave jail with a signature and a “promise” to appear. There is no indication the victim of the crime was heard, except by the police and prosecution who filed the motion for the protective order. That may have been a little hard to do at 3:07 a.m. in the morning.
To add insult to injury, the Judge to whom this case was assigned never heard it. Being elected a Harris County Misdemeanor Criminal Court at Law Judge has its
privileges—you sleep comfortably and let someone else make the hard decisions at 3:07 a.m., which in this case turned out to be life or death decisions for a young mother, unborn child, and cat. In this case, the magistrate got it clearly wrong—he let a domestic violence offender with prior alcohol convictions beat up his pregnant wife and walk free on a personal bond hours later. He could have set the matter over for hearing to hear from DA Ogg’s office and ordered Guajardo held for another 48-hours. He didn’t. He could have asked Judge Shannon Baldwin to hear the case. He didn’t. And Judge Baldwin didn’t bother either.
Welcome to bail reform in Harris County, Texas. Millions of dollars spent due to the kabuki theatre that was a procedural due process federal civil rights case that was easily resolvable by fixing procedures – not by the massive overhaul you see today.
We now have a system fueled by Soros and his chaos-causing machine that is more akin to bail-by-yahtzee than justice for victims and due process. This is indeed the bail reform some officials have been praising as the new model for the country. We think other jurisdictions may want to take a closer before buying into the hype – including the citizens of Harris County.
To help the family of the victim Caitlynne Rose, please visit their GoFundMe page.