Texas judge declares on Facebook his intent to ban plea bargains in assaults against police

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A Texas judge is under fire after declaring on Facebook he generally won’t accept plea deals in cases involving assaults and threats to police officers.

Judge Kerry Neves of Galveston County backed up his public declaration with a July 18 order (PDF) barring the plea deals unless there is compelling evidence in support of such an agreement, the targeted officers acquiesce and the defendant writes a sincere apology. The Houston Chronicle and KTRK covered the controversy.

The order also applies to cases involving evading or resisting arrest, escaping and aiding escape, failing to identify, interfering with public duties, interfering with police service animals, attempting to take an officer’s weapon, and possessing banned items in a correctional facility.

“I may only be one person, one judge,” Neves wrote on Facebook. “But I will do what I can to stop the disrespect and aggressive behavior against our police officers.”

John Convery, the president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, told KTRK he expects criminal defense lawyers to seek Neves’ recusal in cases involving officers. His order is “a breach of impartiality and basic fairness,” Convery said.

Convery repeated those sentiments in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. “How would Judge Neves feel if a judge said, ‘I’m not going to accept any plea agreements on police who beat up citizens at a traffic stop?’ ” Convery said.

But Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady told KTRK he didn’t think the order would disqualify Neves from presiding in such cases “as long as he’s willing to look at the facts of each case and consider the full range of punishment.”

Neves declined to comment to the Houston Chronicle and KTRK.

Hat tip to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

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