AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police have arrested the same man almost a dozen times just this year. Since 2019, he’s been arrested around 20 times – with court records indicating two of those arrests resulted in jail sentences.

Most of these are property crimes like burglary, theft and criminal trespass.

KXAN first reported on Marion Osborne on Oct. 27, when police arrested him in connection with a downtown burglary at Royal Blue Grocery on Red River Street.

Travis County jail records show police arrested him on charges of a different crime on Nov. 2, an indication Osborne was released days after the Oct. 27 arrest.

Since the end of August, court documents show a series of arrests just weeks apart.

  • Aug. 24
  • Sept. 2
  • Sept. 21
  • Sept. 28
  • Oct. 13
  • Oct. 27
  • Nov. 2

Looking at the summary of his cases, most of the statuses read “prosecution rejected,” “no charges filed” and “dismissed.”

“There are multiple findings by a court that he was incompetent,” said District Attorney Jose Garza, when KXAN asked why this kept happening.

He said the courts have also decided it’s not likely Osborne will ever be competent to stand trial, and since he can’t face a jury – prosecutors can’t charge him, and therefore can’t legally keep him in custody.

“If a person does not have the mental capacity to stand trial, our jails are not holding spaces for people with mental illnesses,” Garza said.

The director of the Travis County Mental Health Public Defenders Melissa Shearer said she couldn’t comment directly on Osborne’s case because of attorney-client privilege, but she provided the following general context.

When people are incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to restore, there is little role remaining for the criminal legal system. The Constitution does not allow a person to be criminally prosecuted without “sufficient present ability to consult with the person’s lawyer with a reason degree of rational understanding, or a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against the person.”

The ability of a person with serious mental illness to be able to restore to competence deteriorates over time with repeat episodes, inconsistent treatment, and living conditions that are not conducive to wellness.

If a person who is incompetent and unlikely to restore is an imminent danger to self or others, there are some limited options for civil commitment in a hospital.  All of those options require wait lists.

Director Melissa Shearer, Travis County Mental Health Public Defenders

The County Attorney’s Office, which dealt with proceedings related to Osborne’s misdemeanor offenses, added that “individuals who are declared incompetent by a medical professional are constitutionally prohibited from being prosecuted.  We are working with community stakeholders to find impactful solutions to a system that has unjustly made our county jail the largest provider of mental health services in our community.”

All three of these legal experts addressed the lack of mental health resources available in the jail and court systems, so KXAN reached out to Dr. Stephen Strakowski, who’s currently working on ways to bring such resources to Travis County.

“We’ve had a major problem with under-resourcing mental health care,” he said.

He said part of the problem is how understaffed and backlogged state mental hospitals are. But he also pointed to the need for community resources that can intervene before people reach the point of needing the state facilities.

“Some individuals stuck in these cycles don’t actually need hospital-level clinical interventions. In Texas and in this country we have under-invested in the community supports that are necessary,” Strakowski said.

Strakowski, Garza and the County Attorney’s Office said they are currently looking into a long-term solution for this issue.