Huffman Bill Would Force Defendants To Do The Time If Jury Calls For Prison

March 4, 2009

District 17 state Sen. Joan Huffman has filed a bill that would take away a judge’s ability to override a jury sentence – something judges  now can do.

Huffman, herself a former judge, filed Senate Bill 1278 on Tuesday “to ensure jury sentences are honored and upheld in Texas courts,” according to a statement released by her office.

The filing also comes in response to a 2009 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that allows judges to overrule a criminal sentence handed down by a jury.

“The cornerstone of the Texas justice system is being judged by a jury of our peers,” Huffman said. “If a jury decides that a convicted criminal should be incarcerated, Texas law should not allow a judge to replace incarceration with probation. SB 278 simply prevents a judge from overriding a jury’s decision.”

 The bill states that a judge cannot suspend a jury’s prison sentence in favor of community supervision. She said under current law, judges are required to follow jury intent when community supervision is recommended. But it “contains a loophole allowing community supervision when a jury orders incarceration.”