Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has announced the creation of a division dedicated to prosecuting more than 300 pending capital murder cases to completion. A specialized team of seasoned prosecutors is being assigned to the new District Attorney’s Office Homicide Division. Another 150 capital murder cases are pending with prosecutors in specialized divisions of the office.
The goal of the Homicide Division is to place experienced prosecutors on the front lines in the Harris County District Courts to push some of the most violent offenders’ cases to trial or plea. Some cases are three or more years old, part of a backlog worsened by the courthouse closure following Hurricane Harvey as well as the pandemic. As a point of reference, the number of pending capital murder cases stood at 451 on April 13, 2022, as compared to 189 on that date five years ago.
The stakes in capital murder cases are especially high as a conviction has one of two end results: the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors face many challenges in readying such important cases for trial. Often there are numerous lab results to await and review, many witnesses to interview and mountains of evidence, like body-camera footage, to process, catalog and then deliver to defense lawyers to fulfill statutory mandates. “The lawyers who applied and interviewed for the job have the necessary skills, and more importantly, the heart for such cases,” said DA Kim Ogg.
“The victims’ families need and deserve justice and these charged defendants need trials. These are the cases we are prioritizing.”
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