Parents plea for inmate releases as 5 test positive at Harris County jail

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The parents of two Harris County Jail inmates are asking a federal judge to help release their children from the facility.

In letters to U.S. District Court Judge Lea Rosenthal , the parents cite pre-existing health conditions, including age and lung capacity, which puts their children at a higher risk for complications if they contract COVID-19.

Rosenthal is presiding over a case in which attorneys for thousands of jail inmates are asking for bail hearings within 48 hours or to be released. After several telephone hearings over the last two weeks, Judge Rosenthal has not ordered any such condition. The parties will turn in yet more legal briefs Friday.

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In the letters, the inmates families are begging for compassionate releases, saying they have pre-existing medical conditions that make them at higher risk for contracting novel coronavirus.

LaKendra Denmon says her son J'Ques C. Minor suffers from "major underlining conditions" after being shot in the back while the victim of a violent robbery in December 2017. His right lung collapsed, he had two major surgeries due to internal bleeding and was in the hospital for 18 days.

He is currently in jail on unauthorized use of a vehicle and evading arrest charges.

In a letter to Judge Rosenthal on Thursday, Denmon says, "J'Ques is a great young man, (who has) many strategic goals that he wants to accomplish and he will fulfill those goals but have made some irresponsible and immature decisions! Which I know he has now learned from and has changed, because he knew he had to better himself not only for him, but his newborn baby girl that is only 2 months old!"

Denmon says she believes in people being punished for their wrongdoings, but since her son only has one good lung, she can't afford for him to stay in jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday afternoon, the sheriff's office said 29 jail staffers had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Five inmates have tested positive, 69 others are in quarantine awaiting test results and 1,233 inmates are under observation.

Richard Huebner said his daughter, who faces two theft charges and criminal trespassing charges, is a non-violent criminal.

"She is 51 years old, in failing health with diabetes, neuropathy, high blood pressure and hypertension. She has been in medical the last two days and often over the past two weeks," Huebner said in his letter to Judge Rosenthal on Tuesday. "COVID-19 poses a significant risk to her life given her age and medical condition."

The pleas of those parents to the federal judge are just another venue where the fight over jailed inmates is taking place. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's order more than a week ago was stopped by State District Judge Herb Ritchie. That after Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez's informal request of state judges to consider release for hundreds of inmates went unanswered.

Court filings also reveal Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is considering another attempt at a release order. State judges are also contemplating speeding up bond hearings.

At last check, there are 7,534 inmates in the jail. It is down slightly from the beginning of the week.

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