EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Assistant District Attorney Douglas Tiemann explained in an interview what is causing the backlog of cases and what the District Attorney’s office is doing to catch up.
Public Defender’s office filed 1050 cases for dismissal in August after D.A.’s office failed to indict in the time frame of 180 days according to 30.02 Texas Code of Criminal Procedures.
So far, about 900 cases have been dismissed by the Jail Magistrate judge, including misdemeanors and felonies, according to Public Defender Kelli Childress.
“People have given their time after court hours, people who are working weekends they are moving this forward,” said Tiemann in an interview with KTSM, explaining they are tackling the backlog of cases partially caused by the pandemic and other factors.
One of them, Tiemann said, is the reinstating of DIMS program in January of 2022.
DIMS is a system through which law enforcement officers directly contact a prosecutor to move the case forward. It is only for some eligible misdemeanors and less serious felonies and the person needs to be arrested on the spot of the incident.
Tiemann said, during the period that DIMS contract was not negotiated, it created a backlog of cases.
On August 30, during the City Council meeting, El Paso Police Department Assistant Chief Zina Silva said “in 99 percent of those cases, the El Paso police have presented those cases in a timely manner, we did review those cases,” explaining the dismissed cases without indictments were concerning people who were already in custody.
In her presentation during the meeting she said EPPD’s relationship with the D.A.’s office was good and that the DIMS program was helping process these cases faster.
Tiemann backed up that claim during the interview, saying now that DIMS is effectively in place, it is assisting both the D.A.’s office and law enforcement.
“So we are now in the process of going through and screening all of those cases for potential filing or presentation to the grand jury,” he said.
Public Defender Kelli Childress said there are now about 3,000 cases in the preindictment stage and about a 1,000 of those are eligible for dismissal, she said.
She was unable to confirm when those additional cases would be filed for dismissal.
Tiemann said the D.A.’s office has currently filed for indictment or indicted over 80 cases that were filed for dismissal last month.
“We’ve identified in the 420s cases that we’re going to be filing as soon as they are ready to go forward whether they be misdemeanors of scheduling with the grand jury,” Tiemann said.
He explained, for the cases that were already dismissed, they are still able to re-file under the Statute of Limitations which ranges from two to 10 years, and plan on doing so for some cases.
KTSM asked about some cases of violent nature that were dismissed.
Tiemann said the staff is paying close attention to those type of cases.
“Every one of them gets looked at individually and every prosecutor will spend the time they need to review those cases to see if the evidence is sufficient to move forward, and if we are ready, we will get them re-filed,” he explained.
Last year. D.A.’s office would process over 500 cases a month, according to Tiemann, but this year, he said, they are able to process over 900 monthly.
“We’ve had significant improvement in the office and we have a lot of people trying to get us to that goal,” he said.
He explained staff are working outside of court hours to review and file cases, saying they want to hold people accountable for their actions and for justice to be served.