On Monday, lawyers for Shannon Miles, who's been charged with capital murder in the August slaying of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, asked the court not to give Miles special treatment and to keep him in jail, as opposed to shipping him off to a state mental hospital sooner than expected.
Which sounds like an odd request, given that two forensic psychiatrists recently diagnosed Miles with schizophrenia and found him unfit to stand trial, and everyone agreed he needs treatment in a hospital, not jail. The problem is that it could take up to 100 days to transfer him, because there aren't enough open beds.
But then came state Senator John Whitmire, who last week swooped in to make a couple of phone calls so Miles could hop the line. He ordered the state hospital to make room for Miles immediately, then called the Harris County Jail and ordered them to prepare Miles for immediate transfer. Miles's attorneys, state prosecutors and state District Judge Susan Brown all said Whitmire did this without their knowledge.
Had Miles's attorneys not filed an emergency motion to halt the expedited transfer — a motion that Brown granted on Monday — Miles would have been skipping the line by 61 people. Sixty-one people who, defense attorney Anthony Osso argued, need the treatment just as badly as Miles and may be suicidal at the jail. (Miles, he added, is not suicidal.)
“We have enough going on in this case,” Osso said, hinting at the three deputies — so far — who have been fired for inappropriate relationships with a key witness who was at the gas station when Goforth was shot: Goforth's mistress. “I don't want my client involved in a political fight about the availability of beds at the state hospitals.”
Sen. Whitmire has said he made the calls because he was concerned about Miles's safety at the jail. But in court, Osso argued that, should Miles receive special treatment, he would probably be met with hostility from other inmates if he returned to the jail after 120 days. “There's an attitude at the jail among inmates, every man for himself,” Osso said. “Any time an inmate is shown favoritism of some sort, we always worry about that. The harassment you have to deal with, if you're mentally ill and you're in that kind of environment, it just raises concerns for my client. His mental health is really our primary concern.”
And should Miles receive special treatment thanks to a favor from Whitmire, that would also leave Osso and attorney Charles Brown with less time to prepare their case. Osso promised they were not trying to delay the case; they simply wanted more time to help their client. He told Brown he had planned to use the time to compile Miles's medical records to share with the hospital, and possibly do some more psychiatric testing once their expert gets back in the country. She gave Osso two weeks to get the medical records together; at that point, they'll have another hearing, and Brown said they'd have to see if Whitmire's offer is even still on the table. She said she wanted to get Miles to the hospital "as quickly as possible" so they can "move on."
Should the case go to trial, Osso and Brown plan to argue that, since the woman Goforth was sleeping with was at the gas station when he was shot, that means Goforth must have been there to meet her and therefore wasn't on duty. Which would mean Miles should not receive capital punishment.
There's the chance the case won't go to trial at all, should Miles's competency never be restored. The hospital has 120 days, at which point there will be another evaluation. If he's not good to go at that point, extensions can be granted. The 120 days don't begin until Miles is shipped off from the jail.
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