It didn't take much Monday for Judge Susan Brown to decide that Shannon Miles, charged with killing Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, will not be allowed to hop the line and be transferred to a state mental hospital earlier than 60 other inmates.
Miles was found incompetent to stand trial back on February 9, and he was ordered to a state mental hospital where doctors will try to restore his competency. After reading about it in the next day's news, state Senator John Whitmire stepped in and made some calls to both the hospital and the Harris County Jail asking that Miles be transferred immediately so that Miles could jump ahead of dozens of other mentally ill inmates awaiting transfer.
But instead of accepting Whitmire's favor and giving their client a ticket out of jail — at least for a bit — Miles's defense attorneys responded by asking the court to keep him in jail so he could wait his turn just like everybody else. Attorney Anthony Osso argued that Whitmire's special treatment was a “due process violation.” In a second motion, filed days later, Osso also asked that the court stop Whitmire from intervening in the case at all, concerned that Whitmire's interference could cause doctors at the state hospital to fall under pressure and say Miles's competency was restored prematurely, for fear of losing mental health funding from the Legislature.
Whitmire responded to Ossos's motion by saying, “He can't stop me or even slow me down from being a state senator.”
But on Monday, Brown barely even acknowledged Whitmire, who showed up prepared to argue for Miles's expedited transfer with newspaper clippings about unsafe conditions at the Harris County Jail. Since neither the state nor the defense was in favor of giving special treatment to Miles, Brown made her decision without even a peep from Whitmire.
“There's nobody who wants to get this case to trial as much as I do,” she said. “But I'm also struggling with the fact that Mr. Miles is no more or less important than every single person on that waiting list, some who have been waiting for over 100 days.”
After the hearing, a disappointed Whitmire said that, actually, Miles is in fact different from all of those people on the list, since he is the only one charged with killing a Harris County Sheriff's deputy. As he told the Houston Press last week: “All cases are important, but the other cases, as serious as they are, don't involve a deputy sheriff whose department runs the jail.”
Osso had assured Brown that he toured the jail and there has been nothing that concerned him about his client's safety. In fact, he was more concerned that Miles's safety would be at risk should he get the special treatment and have to face hostile inmates upon his return to the jail.
Since Miles was placed on the waiting list a month ago, he has moved one single spot. The mentally ill man who was recently transferred to the hospital had been waiting 151 days, Osso said.
If and when state legislators address the lack of mental health beds across Texas next session — something Whitmire said he is already digging into — Osso says his client could become the issue's poster boy.
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