Judge calls for resignation of head of Probation Department and top 3 lieutenants
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A judge called for several resignations in the Harris County Probation Department including its director. It's the latest fallout from an under-oath probe that uncovered human error sent innocent people to jail.
Eyewitness News has been following the hearing since it began last week, but the biggest development came Monday afternoon when the judge who has been hearing all the testimony issued some surprising statements.
Judge Denise Collins ruled that she would no longer accept any positive urine drug tests from the Harris Co. Probation Department. This comes after an unusual hearing where defense attorney Lisa Andrews effectively laid out a myriad of problems within the department.
"The bigger ramification is that she is not considering positive UAs (urinalysis) as a possibly violation of someone's probation because she does not have confidence in those results because, in her opinion, the problem is systemic," Andrews said.
It all began last week when Andrews presented evidence that showed clerical errors and other problems led to at least 30 false positives in drug testing of probationers. One of them, Richard Yost, testified on Friday that the false positive drug test ruined his life.
On Monday, the men leading the department said they were sorry.
"When humans are involved, there will be mistakes," said Ray Garcia with the Harris Co. Probation Department.
"There is nothing good that you can say other than to apologize. I don't know what words I would use to do that," said Paul Becker, Director of the Harris Co. Probation Department.
But neither Paul Becker, the head of the department, nor his deputies, could explain on the stand why nobody -- not judges, nor defendants, nor attorneys -- were notified when the inaccurate results were discovered.
"I think that every person on probation could potentially be affected right now. Until they get this problem cleaned up, fixed, then I don't know how any of us can have any confidence in the results that they're providing -- positive or negative," said Andrews.
The result is that Judge Collins made it clear that the men running the Harris Co. Probation Department should all resign, and Becker admits that's something he's considering.
"If a judge has lost confidence in my ability to run the department, that's going to make it very challenging for me to run the department in the future. So I will strongly consider my actions in terms of resigning," said Paul Becker.
He did not give an exact timeline as to when he will decide whether or not he should step down.
Judge Collins said she will take the transcripts as to what happened the last three days of the hearing and send it to all the judges in the Harris Co. Criminal Courthouse.
local, miya shay
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