U.S. Supreme Court justice denies Harris County request in bail case

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UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has denied Harris County’s request to stop the release of misdemeanor inmates who can’t afford to post cash bail.

The county had appealed late Tuesday to halt Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal‘s directive that it begin releasing some inmates accused of misdemeanor crimes who cannot afford bail. That order had gone into effect Tuesday, and continued Wednesday, while Thomas considered the county’s application.

Thomas’s denial means some inmates will continue to be released on personal recognizance ahead of their trials if they cannot afford bail. The county still has the option to ask the full Supreme Court to reconsider Thomas’s denial.

Meanwhile, an appeals court is also considering the county’s appeal of Rosenthal’s full order.

Edward Gonzales says the fence was already down when he arrived to help his friend move.

But sheriff’s deputies didn’t take it that way, and the 38-year-old construction worker was arrested Monday on misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and trespassing.

He’s sat in jail ever since because he couldn’t make the $500 cash bond – until Wednesday morning, when a court-ordered new bail system allowed him to be released on a personal bond for promising to appear in court.

“It feels good to come out,” he said. The new no-cash bail system, “helps a lot.”

Related:Harris County takes costly bail lawsuit appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court 

Gonzales – no relation to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – was among more than dozens of people released on personal bonds since late Tuesday, according to the sheriff’s office.

Overall, about 100 misdemeanor defendants are expected to be released by the end of the day Wednesday, assuming they have no holds or detainers, such as mental health orders, or in certain family violence cases, officials said.

The new bail rules followed a decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday rejecting an appeal by Harris County to stop a judge’s order that the county begin releasing indigent low-level defendants on personal bonds.

Related: Federal judge: Harris Co. bail system unfair to poor, misdemeanor  defendants

 The county has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but local officials will begin releasing inmates anyway to comply with the order from Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal in Houston.

Andre Medina, 17, a high school senior, waited outside the Harris County jail Wednesday for his grandmother.

He had been in jail for two days after being arrested on a criminal trespass charge in Pasadena. Late Tuesday night, he’d finally been released on a personal bond after promising to appear in court.

“Right before I saw the TV judge, I prayed I could get out,” Medina said, referring to the hearing officer who read his charges via a television link. “It feels good. I’m going to go home and shower.”

Story is developing. Stay tuned.

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