The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

December 22, 2013

County continues with capital murder defense program

By BRAD KELLAR
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — The Hunt County Commissioners Court has agreed to renew the county’s membership in a program which helps pay for defense attorneys in death penalty capital murder cases.

The commissioners voted Friday to approve the renewal of the interlocal agreement with Lubbock County through the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases program.

Hunt County has been a part of the program since first enrolling in August 2012.

The West Texas Regional Public Defender Office was established in 2007 through interlocal agreements between the counties in the 7th and 9th judicial regions, with Lubbock County serving as the administrative county. Each participating county agrees to pay a yearly fee, based on its population and the number of capital murder cases it has filed within the last 10 years.

Hunt County currently has three defendants charged involving two alleged capital murders. The District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty for two of the defendants, should they be convicted of capital murder.

The cost of the program to Hunt County is on a sliding scale, with the costs rising each year to a maximum of $108,000.

There are some limitations to the program. In the event two people are charged with capital murder and are facing the death penalty in the same case, the office could only defend one of them.

The office also doesn’t handle the appeals of any convictions, nor does it pay for “second chair” defense attorneys, both of which would be still be paid for through the county. The office also does not handle capital murder cases where the death penalty is not being sought.