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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Accused Cop-Killer’s Transfer on Hold

HOUSTON (CN) - The man accused of killing a Texas sheriff's officer by shooting him in the back will not be sent to a state mental hospital immediately despite a state senator's request, a judge ruled Monday.

Shannon Miles, 31, is in Harris County Jail, charged with the capital murder of Harris County sheriff's Officer Darren Goforth.

Goforth was shot 15 times from behind on Aug. 28, 2015 as he filled up his squad car at a Houston gas station.

Harris County Judge Susan Brown last week ordered that Miles, who is schizophrenic, be transferred to North Texas State Hospital for 120 days to restore his competency. Experts for both prosecution and defense agreed he does not understand the charge he faces.

Because 61 other Harris County inmates are ahead of Miles on a waiting list for transfer to the hospital, Miles attorney Anthony Osso said he did not expect Miles to be moved until May.

But state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, arranged for Miles to be given a bed immediately, citing potential threats to his safety in Harris County Jail from deputies angry about Goforth's killing.

Osso filed an emergency motion to stop Miles' transfer on Friday, saying he needs time to gather Miles' medical records to be sent with him to the state hospital, and that expedited transfer would violate Miles' right to due process.

"According to the senator, his intervention in this case is the result of concern for the safety of Shannon Miles being housed in the Harris County Jail," the motion states.

"However, records show that Mr. Miles has been incarcerated in the Harris County Jail since the time of his arrest in August 2015. For the past five-and-a-half months the senator has shown no concern for the safety of Mr. Miles."

The 6-foot-3-inch Miles appeared in an oversized yellow jump suit at Monday's hearing, his cheekbones prominent in a face that has thinned since his arrest. He stuck his bearded chin up and surveyed the gallery intently, with no sign of infirmity in his large piercing brown eyes.

Judge Brown said she wanted to get Miles to trial as "expeditiously as possible" and declined to grant Osso's motion to put Miles back in line behind the other Harris County inmates awaiting transfer to the hospital.

But she agreed to delay Miles' transfer for at least two weeks, giving Osso time to gather more medical records. She reset the hearing for March 2.

Osso said he's concerned Miles will become a target for other mentally ill inmates who are ahead of him on the list if he is moved to the head of the line.

"I believe it creates the potential for a hostile environment when he returns to jail. The other inmates would have knowledge that he received favorable treatment," Osso said.

Osso said that jail staff told him there are suicidal inmates on the waiting list, and others whose sentencing is being delayed by the wait for a bed at the hospital.

"If your wait time exceeds your possible punishment you could understand why they might be upset," Osso told Judge Brown.

Osso added that he does not want Miles involved in a political fight over the number of mental health beds available for Texas inmates, which is far behind other states in that regard.

The case has already taken some unusual twists.

A woman told investigators she was Goforth's mistress, that she witnessed his murder, and that she was meeting with him at the gas station, according to a Brady disclosure filed with the court.

Osso says that if he can prove Goforth was not at the gas station in his official capacity as a police officer, then Miles' capital murder charge could be downgraded to murder, which could save him from the death penalty .

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