County Complies with Order to Pay Defender’s Fee

During a Special Commissioners’ Court on Monday the elected officials approved the payments to defense attorneys O. Rene Flores and Carlos Hernandez as order last week.
District Judge Longoria ordered Starr County to pay court appointed attorney O. Rene Flores who is defending Jesús Angel Rebollar in a capital murder trial.
Flores submitted an invoice in April for $23,072 which is itemized in the document attached. A total of $11,928 is included for a total balance of approximately $35,000. A new invoice was ordered to be paid to the second chair attorney in the capital murder trial, Carlos Hernandez. That invoice has not yet been released to El Tejano but it for approximately $20,000. In addition, Judge Longoria ordered that Starr County has until June 10th to deposit $150,000 in the court’s registry to ensure that future legal fees be paid.
Both attorneys were court appointed using the guidelines for a capital murder trial and were chosen because of their qualifications to be legal defense of anyone that could face a death penalty as explained by the Fifth Administrative Judicial Branch. Former 229th District Judge Ana Lisa Garza explains that to appoint a defense she didn’t have much more than what the charge was.
During yesterday’s proceedings Judge Eloy Vera clarified that he did not receive information from 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar about the deadline of May 30th set on May 15th to pay the invoices. Vera said he learned about it in the newspaper. During questioning he said that between the two district courts the county budget had between $90k and $100k set aside for indigent defense. However, that sum is for all cases.
Evidence was presented by Flores from the Public Defenders Office giving their reason why they could not represent Rebollar. An excerpt of the letter read aloud in the courtroom expressed that their office had a conflict of interest since they represented a person that at some point was tied to the case. Escobar countered that his office was unaware of any conflict of interest.
Vera confirmed that there had been a regular Commission meeting on Tuesday but that he was waiting to see the outcome of a pending order before complying. Flores disclosed that the motion Vera was likely waiting on was the motion to have Judge Longoria recused. The motion was denied earlier this week.
Flores questioned Vera over his implications that the County did not have the funds to cover the legal fees as it was written in a letter sent to the two District Judges. He countered that in at least one recent news article printed in The Monitor he boasted that the County was in debt free and there was a rainy day fund of $750,000. Vera explained that as Chief Financial officer he works on projects of revenues and expenses. If everything continues in accordance to his projects the $750,000 would be the sum over the expenses.
In the end the Judge agreed that the County would pay and that he would call a Special Commission Meeting for Monday to approve the expenses. To date the fees, sum up to approximately $55,000 but it is not clear how much more will be billed.
The trial against Jesús Angel Rebollar will continue with a tentative date of June 17th.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *