Sid Harle is an American Judge and Republican Politician who presided over several high profile cases, including 20 death penalty cases, the sentencing of a police officer accused of sexual assault, awarding the death penalty to a youth pastor who murdered a pregnant woman, and also the exoneration of Michael Morton after 25 years of wrongful imprisonment.
Sid Harle was appointed as Judge of the 226th District Court (Felony Criminal Bench) in 1988 by Governor Bill Clements, and has occupied the position for over 25 years. Prior to his appointment, Harle served as a prosecutor for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and as the Chief Municipal Prosecutor for the City of Hill Country Village. Additionally, he was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to the Judicial Conduct Commission, where he was elected Chair and served for two consecutive terms.
High Profile Cases
None of the 20 death penalty sentences issued by Harle were reversed on appeal by another judge. Nationally, over 37% of death penalty sentences have been overturned on appeal during the period between 1973 and 2013.
Michael Morton was convicted in 1987 for the murder of his wife, Christine Morton, and sentenced to life in prison. DNA testing exonerated Morton 25 years later when Judge Sid Harle formally acquitted him on December 19, 2011. The original prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was later charged and imprisoned for contempt of court following Harle’s recommendation for an inquiry into prosecutorial misconduct.
Adrian Estrada, a former youth pastor at the El Sendero Assembly of God church in San Antonio, was sentenced to death by Judge Sid Harle for the murder of a pregnant 17-year old woman who attended the congregation. After over 40 appeals made on Adrian Estrada’s behalf by the ACLU, the case was revisited by Judge Harle and the death sentence was revoked in exchange for a life sentence and Estrada ceding his right to appeal the ruling.
Jackie Len Neal
Jackie Len Neal, a former San Antonio Police officer, was accused of abducting and sexually assaulting 19-year old female in his patrol car in 2013. Neal was fired after being accused of the assault, and was sentenced to 14 months in prison by Judge Harle after he pled guilty to a lesser charge. The case sparked outrage across San Antonio and the city’s South Side district where the assault occurred.
Judge Sid Harle pronounced the death penalty for Kevin Watts, who was found guilty of three execution style murders at the Sam Won Garden Restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. Watts was executed by lethal injection in October 2008.
Awards and honors
Judge of the Year – Texas Gang Investigators Association Bexar County Republicans Hall of Fame
- "Sid Harle". Dallas County Republican Party.
- "226th Criminal District Court". bexar.org.
- Elizabeth Zavala, Staff Writer (9 November 2015). "Ex-SAPD officer will serve 14 months in sex case". San Antonio Express-News.
- "Texas Court Rules There Is Probable Cause to Believe Former District Attorney Violated State Law in Michael Morton Prosecution". innocenceproject.org.
- Frank R. Baumgartner (17 March 2015). "Most death penalty sentences are overturned. Here's why that matters". Washington Post.
- "Michael Morton". innocenceproject.org.
- "Death sentence of former youth pastor overturned". dallasnews.com.
- "Ex-SAPD officer will serve 14 months in sex case". San Antonio Express-News.
- "Execution Report: Kevin Watts". txexecutions.org.