Close to 300 defendants in Harris Co. Jail automatically released due to computer glitch

"In my 25 years, I've never seen a system go down like this," said criminal defense attorney Emily Detoto.

The system in question is called Jweb. It's what prosecutors use for criminal cases.

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In the order, Magistrate Courtney St. Julian states, "The court finds Jweb was not operational from March 24 at around 7 p.m. until March 26 at around 9 p.m. More than 280 in custody have not received a probable cause hearing."

"Which means that 280 to around 300 people were sitting in the Harris County Jail without having seen a magistrate," Detoto said.

Law requires defendants receive a probable cause hearing within 48 hours.


In her ruling, the magistrate points out, "Due to the insurmountable backlog, more than 280 defendants be released from jail."

Many defendants got personal recognizance bonds.

"And per the court's order, some people that were accused of a crime under a certain statute that their bonds be set at $10,000 immediately if they had a prior criminal history or not," said Detoto.

And it didn't matter if the charge was burglary or murder. Everyone was apparently released with no bond conditions.

"None of the people who were released are really under any conditions," said Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers. "There's no ankle monitors, there's no GPS, there's no distance requirements, and we don't know who these offenders are."

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"It's possible there's a lot of people running around out there that don't know when they're supposed to go back to court, and don't know what they are or not supposed to do when they're on bond," Detoto said.

In a statement, the Harris County DA's office tells us, "The latest Harris County Universal Services computer system failure has the full attention of the District Attorney, Police Chief, and Sheriff because it resulted in the temporary release of accused criminals. The safety of the public security of our Criminal Justice System and efficiency of our courts demand that the county give Universal Services the resources to fix this and ensure it never happens again."

The DA's office also tells us all those released will be re-arrested and have probable cause hearings.