The Justice System in Texas Is Failing Victims of Crime and Their Families (OPINION)

Aug 25, 2022
3:43 PM
Originally published at Criminal

Courtesy of Gia Santos

On August 2, family and friends including myself got together to celebrate my cousin Francisco Santos’ birthday in Fort Worth, Texas. He would have turned 21.

Frank’s life was taken on August 22, 2020, in River Oaks, Texas. Ever since then, my family and I are still waiting for justice in his case, which is handled by Tarrant County officials.

Instead of celebrating his 21st as most legal age young adults do, with a round of drinks, we got together to remember him at his resting place. My cousin’s mom asked me to share a few words. We sang him “happy birthday in heaven” as balloons were released.

Almost a year would go by after my cousin’s murder before any arrests were made in his case by the River Oaks Police Department. The delay was due to the judge in charge at the time who wanted more evidence before issuing arrest warrants

Five individuals were involved in my cousin Frank’s murder, and yet, only two minors were eventually arrested. At the time, both suspects were detained Scott D. Moore Juvenile Justice Center in Forth Worth.

Fast forward to the first trial in my cousin’s case. Judge Alex Kim allowed the main defendant, a Hispanic youth who fatally shot my cousin, to walk free despite evidence, by allowing the case to be switched over to the adult criminal justice system where another judge further lowered his bond and set his release with some conditions in place. His court hearing has yet to be set and could take years, according to the state prosecutor, due to a rise in similar murders of youth, primarily Hispanics and African Americans, in the Dallas-Forth Worth area

For months afterward, Frank’s family was continually asked to attend a scheduled hearing for the second suspect —also a minor at the time but now of legal age— only to be told it was postponed, canceled, or rescheduled. I traveled to Texas myself in mid-March 2020 to attend the hearing, but it was continually postponed and canceled month after month, week after week, until the day I was departing to the East Coast on August 10, when Frank’s mom called me to let me know the judge had decided to hold the hearing. I had a few hours left before I had to be at the airport, so I went to attend the hearing with both of Frank’s parents, my aunt and uncle, his brother, and another cousin.

While Judge Kim raised the bond from $50,000 to $100,000 on August 10 for the now 18-year-old accused of planning my cousin’s murder, we believe that is still not a high enough bond considering his family would only pay 10 percent and given his organized crime contacts. Now he will be judged as an adult by one of 11 judges with the possibility of bond, which is likely the option he and his attorney want—and which was the same route taken by the individual who shot and killed my cousin, allowed to wait for his sentencing at home instead of being sentenced for the capital murder they planned and committed.

Judge Kim’s website claims he devotes his life to fight for “justice for citizens of Tarrant County,” but his actions in my cousin’s case show otherwise. He stands on the side of injustice by allowing my cousin’s murderers to walk free to finish their sentencing in the comfort of their home with certain freedoms they do not deserve after taking Frank’s life.

Frank can’t return to see his family again. He can’t sleep in his own bed or hug his brother and parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, while the individuals responsible for his death may walk free due to loopholes in the legal system

The judge’s website further states he used to lead the Tarrant County Republican Party. Given his conservative values, you would think he would stand for justice and the safety of the community at large, yet his actions in my cousin’s case, and his attitude during the court hearing —sharing a casual laugh with the defendant’s attorney nearing the end of the hearing— was not only insensitive but extremely unprofessional, especially consider that, before the hearing, I was advised to avoid showing any outward emotion, such as crying, which was not allowed by Judge Kim.

“Juvenile Judge Alex Kim livestreamed detention hearings for youth above a certain age under the rules of an open court,” the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported, earning “$9,000 in ad revenue”—including during COVID, which would include my cousin’s case, which in and of itself shows how little he cares about victims or their families.

There are plenty of reasons why Judge Kim and associate judges should be defunded and their roles reconsidered entirely, whether for victims of crime and their families seeking justice, or survivors of human trafficking who need support.

I ask that you please take a moment to sign and share the petition “Justice for Frank.”

And Frank’s family and I ask that the next judge in charge of my cousin’s case understand that we demand nothing less than justice, which means not allowing the principal organizer of Frank’s murder to walk free through a bond agreement that would allow the person to flee before their next trial or serve their sentence in the comfort of their own home instead of in a prison to face the consequences of having planned and taken the life of another human being: my cousin Frank Santos.


Gia Santos is a bilingual writer and editor, and an advocate for immigrant rights and victims of violence. She is the co-founder of Artists4Freedom. Twitter: @Gia_Santos_