EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso District Attorney’s Office claims some cases filed for dismissal have already been indicted or dismissed, but the chief public defender said none of that was communicated with her office. 

Douglas Tiemann, chief of intake division with the D.A.’s office, said up to 15 percent of cases that have been submitted for dismissal since June have already been indicted or signed off by a judge to be dismissed, before the public defender even filed them for dismissal.

“Hundreds of county employees are being asked to duplicate efforts here,” Tiemann said. 

Since June 2022, the public defender’s office has filed 1,050 cases for dismissal, and just last week over 400 more. 

These cases became eligible for dismissal under Texas Code 32.01 that makes a case eligible for dismissal if it has not been indicted 180 days since the defendant’s arrest. 

Out of those 1,050 filed, 856 have been dismissed in hearings that took place over a few months, while the rest were in process of being indicted by the D.A.’s office so the motions to dismiss were dropped, according to Chief Public Defender Kelli Childress. 

She says there are still about 800 eligible for dismissal, on top of over 400 that have been filed and are waiting for the judge’s decision on Tuesday morning. 

According to Tiemann, some of those cases that were filed for dismissal have been signed off by a judge even before they were filed for dismissal. 

He said by filing these cases for dismissal, that have already been either indicted or dismissed under a different code by the D.A.’s office, the public defender is making the cases go through the same process twice. 

But Childress claims she has not been receiving any notice from the D.A. ‘s office about the cases they are now claiming have been already indicted or dismissed. 

She said they have been filing ex parte motions, without Childress or her clients present in court. 

“It’s unlawful, it’s unethical to present motions behind my back when my client is a part of the case and get signatures on those and not tell anyone they’ve obtained dismissals on the case. Similar to what they do with indictments as well, I get no notice when they indict my clients,” Childress said. 

She also stated she had tried contacting the D.A.’s office regarding this matter since August, but has not received any response. 

Tiemann said there was a problem with communication with D.A.’s office and the public defender’s office. 

He said he spoke to Childress when the first round of cases were filed for dismissal at the beginning of summer. 

“We’ve had some conversations. I’ve made that very request. The answer is essentially, the public defender does not want to shed light on her client.”

Childress explained the lack of communication coming from the D.A.’s office is severely affecting her clients, explaining that she cannot close out her case files or notify her clients that they can stop following their bond conditions or paying their fees if she doesn’t get the information from the D.A.’s office that they decided to drop the case. 

“It is unfair to say to my clients, for the second time, because the D.A. failed to act on their case and now prioritize your bond over your rent or your children because now we want to come back and charge you, now that the public defender has made us aware that your case still exists,” Childress said. 

She said she also cannot notify her clients if they have been indicted if she is not  notified by the D.A.’s office. 

“Even if there was an official court record maintained by the clerk, they still have to give me notice of anything they file,” she further explained, “just like I have to give notice to the D.A.’s office that I filed these (motions for dismissals) so that they know to be there. What they have been doing when they have been filing their 32.02 motions they don’t tell me, they don’t tell the clerk, they don’t tell anybody and no one knows that the case has been declined.”

If the defendant gets indicted under statute of limitations, even after a case has been dismissed under Texas Code 32.01, they can be arrested again for the same cause they have been arrested the first time. 

Childress said the D.A.’s office can issue an order on how they want the defendant brought to court, which can avoid an arrest. 

However, Tiemann said, this decision comes from the judge. 

“This is not a public safety issue. These are not people that have been found guilty of an offense. These are not people that have even been charged with an offense. These are people against whom an accusation has been made,” explained Childress. 

Tiemann explained they take a look at each case thoroughly and are working overtime to look through the cases. 

“None of this is push button work. Everything that goes on in the criminal justice system takes time. There is a saying out there that the wheels of justice grind slowly,” said Tiemann. 

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