Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dementia contributed to downfall of Harris County judge

Judge Reagan Helm, who resigned yesterday on the eve of a recusal hearing, had agreed to resign six months ago because he was suffering from dementia. The agreement called for Mr. Helm to step down from the bench this past September and draw disability from the county. Mr. Helm changed his mind.

Apparently he spoke to the administrative judge, Jean Hughes, who presides over Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 15, about his health issues when he made his original decision to step down.
“It's a shame because we tried to intervene and help him go very quietly with dignity and, unfortunately, that didn't happen. When you're dealing with someone with his situation, you're never quite sure what they do or what they can quite comprehend, but we spent a great deal of time trying to work with him.” Judge Jean Hughes
This now raises the issue of whether Judge Helm was competent to sit on the bench and, if he wasn't, when he was no longer fit to preside over the court. How many rulings did he make from the bench that were affected by his dementia? Did any of these rulings contribute to a guilty verdict at trial or "force" a defendant to enter a plea of guilty?

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