An expanding program
The public defender program dedicated to capital murder cases began in West Texas and has administrative and trial offices in Lubbock, as well as satellite offices in Amarillo, Angleton, Burnet, Kingsville, Midland and Uvalde.
Of the 240 counties eligible for the program, Stoffregen said, 193 — grouped in nine regions throughout the state — have agreed to participate so far. Fourteen counties — with populations greater than 300,000 — are ineligible due to a high number of capital cases and an abundance of qualified attorneys.
The organization will open its first local office Nov. 5 in Wichita Falls, Stoffregen said. A second office east of Dallas will follow Jan. 1.
“We want to be located geographically so we can have a member of the team in jail, seeing the client, in 24 hours,” he said. “Sometimes we’re talking to witnesses before the police.”
The offices are staffed with specialists who are teamed to boost efficiency, Stoffregen said.
“This is all we do,” he said. “Capital work is time-consuming. You almost have to shut your private practice down to pursue it.”