The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

December 18, 2013

County considers renewing program

By BRAD KELLAR
Herald-Banner Staff

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

The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the renewal of the interlocal agreement with Lubbock County through the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases. The issue is included under the agenda for the last scheduled meeting of 2013 for the commissioners court, starting at 10 a.m. Friday in the Auxiliary Courtroom, 2700 Johnson Street in Greenville.

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 no expense during the first year and with the costs rising each year after that, 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.