This week, attorneys for Shannon Miles, who is accused of gunning down Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth last August, made it clear that they don't want any help from Sen. John Whitmire, who has tried to expedite Miles's transfer to a state mental hospital.
Miles, accused of gunning down Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth last August, was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial earlier this month after experts agreed he suffered from schizophrenia and his attorneys said they could not even have a rational conversation with him. Because no beds are immediately available at the state hospital, where doctors will have 120 days to restore his competency, Miles was placed on a waiting list. Right away, Sen. John Whitmire made a phone call to the state hospital and asked them to make room for Miles immediately. Then, he called the sheriff's office and asked them to prepare to transfer him.
Miles would be skipping the line by 60 inmates.
Miles's attorneys successfully — albeit curiously — argued to keep their client in jail, saying it was not fair to the other 60 inmates and that they would treat Miles with hostility because of the favoritism. State District Judge Susan Brown halted the transfer temporarily, and planned to see if Whitmire's offer was still on the table at a hearing on March 2. But now, Miles's attorneys are asking the court to stop Whitmire from being involved at all. They're asking, again, that their client remain jailed until it's his turn to go to the hospital, which could take three months.
“Sen. Whitmire's interference in the process of competency restoration raises serious questions about whether doctors can evaluate Mr. Miles fairly and independently, free from outside influence,” attorney Anthony Osso writes in the motion. “He has sent a strong message that competency must be restored, and quickly.”
Osso goes on to argue that, because Whitmire controls funding for state hospitals as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, doctors might restore Miles to competency just so they don't lose that funding. He argues that Whitmire's political power will end up interfering with Miles's due process rights, and that his special phone calls violate separation of powers.
Here's how Whitmire has responded to these allegations: “He can't stop me or even slow me down from being a state senator.”
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In an interview with the Houston Press, Whitmire called Miles's attorney's behavior “outrageous grandstanding,” adding that he has never seen a defense attorney argue that his sick client would be better served in a jail than in a hospital. He said he originally made the call to expedite Miles's transfer because he was concerned about his safety in the Harris County jail — which, he said, is not safe for anyone on any given day. But especially not safe for a schizophrenic person accused of killing a cop, Whitmire said. “He's currently being taken care of and provided for by co-workers of his alleged victim, people who consider that victim family to them,” Whitmire says. “All cases are important, but the other cases, as serious as they are, don't involve a deputy sheriff whose department runs the jail.”
As for Osso's concern that other inmates will be mean to Miles and harass him, Whitmire simply offered, "He's in solitary confinement." He also pointed to the case of Terry Goodwin, an inmate who, in 2014, was left in his own feces in solitary confinement and neglected by guards for months. "I'm shocked a defense attorney knows so little about the conditions of the Harris County Jail," Whitmire said.
Given that three officers have now been fired for "inappropriate involvement" with a key witness in the Goforth case — Goforth's apparent mistress — Whitmire says that he thinks his favor is an even smarter decision now than it was a couple of weeks ago. (Because at that point, only one investigator had been fired.)
Miles and his counsel will appear before Judge Brown on Monday, when she will decide whether or not to give Miles special treatment.