Home Nonviolent defense We recommend Danilo Lacayo for the 182nd Criminal District Court

We recommend Danilo Lacayo for the 182nd Criminal District Court


Editor’s Note: Murders and other violent crimes have increased across the country amid the pandemic, but in Harris County the trend seemed all the more painful as we acknowledged some of the contributing factors but we couldn’t seem to solve them. Beyond the backlog dating back to Harvey that delayed trials, there were criminal court judges and magistrates whose lenient bail decisions for repeat violent offenders put our community at risk.

While the Texas Constitution requires judges to set bail for nearly all criminal offenses, including murder, it is up to judges to determine the appropriate amount and increase or revoke it if defendants violate terms or are charged with another crime. This has not always happened.

All of this weighed heavily on our recommendations for Harris County criminal district courts.

In addition to bond decisions, we assessed typical factors: experience, temperament, fairness, work ethic, and file compensation strategies. To read more district court recommendations, visit our endorsement page.

It’s not just his balanced background as a prosecutor and public defender that makes Danilo “Danny” Lacayo a respected criminal judge.

It was his experience growing up in southwest Houston, trying to stay out of trouble while attending law and justice high school, planning to join the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“I saw a lot of things. I’ve been robbed, I’ve seen aggravated robberies, I’ve seen beatings. I saw drug dealings,” he told the editorial board. “I stayed away from that.

Instead, he turned to the idea that his Nicaraguan-born parents had instilled in him, that he was their “voice” when he interpreted for them in English, and that he could be the voice of many others around the world. He studied at the University of Houston Law Center and practiced civil law for a few years before feeling called to public office.

On the bench, Lacayo, 45, says he understands the families on the defense side, and on the prosecution side.

The Democrat wants voters to understand that he took responsibility for bail decisions seriously, regardless of party. His ability to balance due process and the rights of defendants with a pragmatic approach to breaches of duty is among the reasons we believe Lacayo deserves a second term on the bench.

“My bail conditions are very standard in many of these cases: no new law violations, no weapons, and depending on whether the crime is alcohol related or not, I might make certain conditions related to alcohol,” Lacayo told the Editorial Board.

Yet one of Lacayo’s decisions gave us serious pause: He granted a personal recognizance to a man with multiple prior felony convictions who was later charged with beating and raping a 16-year-old girl under the threat of a weapon. Lacayo’s explanation: The man was arrested for a non-violent offense – possession of weapons and drugs – and if it was a violent offense, the judge would not have granted relationship bail public without bail.

These are the types of tough decisions that are easy to criticize in hindsight. Lacayo’s other strengths give us confidence, including maintaining an efficient record. Its one-year resolution rate is 111%, the eighth highest among the 23 district courts. He received solid marks from his colleagues in the Houston Bar Association poll, with most respondents rating him “excellent” or “very good” overall.

Republican challenger Robert Jackson, 59, is impartial and says his run against Lacayo is not an indictment of the judge’s performance but of the system as a whole. He is an Army veteran and former military police officer who spent 25 years with the Houston Police Department, retiring as a lieutenant. Jackson served as an associate judge in the city’s municipal court system, but he lacks the necessary criminal law experience.

Lacayo performed well in the 182nd and earned another opportunity to serve the people.