EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales agreed to resign on Dec. 14, questions remain about who is going to replace her, what happens with the current D.A.’s Office and the biggest case in the state — the Walmart shooting case.
On Monday, Rosales accepted an agreement to submit her resignation letter to Gov. Greg Abbott effective at 5 p.m. Dec. 14.
Once the governor accepts the resignation, he will be tasked with appointing a new D.A., but until then, Rosales will remain an employee and continue receiving her pay.
In the meantime, her duties and responsibilities will be taken on by Assistant District Attorney George Al-Hanna, as it was agreed in court on Monday.
Retired Judge Penny Hamilton, who worked with former D.A. Jaime Esparza for 20 years, said the new D.A. will have a tough job to do.
“There’s going to have to be focus on that (case) backlog. There’s going to have to be focus on looking at the Walmart shooting case and making sure that there are qualified individuals who are assigned to working that case,” Hamilton said.
She explained that the new district attorney will have an opportunity to assess the current staff at the office, hire some new people and let some go, entirely to their discretion.
El Paso County has historically been known to elect a Democrat as district attorney. However the new D.A. will be appointed by a Republican governor.
Hamilton doesn’t believe this will affect the dynamics at the office.
“The job of the D.A. is getting justice for our community and keeping our community safe,” she said adding, “We have had some very successful, very competent, wonderful individuals that were appointed by Republican governors that were appointed here to serve in El Paso.”
Another question looming is who will be the person selected by the governor.
According to Texas law, the person eligible to be a district attorney must be a practicing lawyer, a resident of Texas for at least a year and a resident of the district, that includes El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties, for at least six months as well as not be convicted of a felony nor determined to be incompetent by a Probate Court.
Christina Sanchez, assistant county attorney, explained that once the governor receives Rosales’s resignation letter, her resignation will become official after he accepts it or eight days after he receives, whichever comes first.
It will then be to the governor’s discretion when he will appoint the new D.A., which could come the day after, or a couple of weeks later.
The new D.A. will assume their position immediately but will also have to be approved by the state Senate.
That is expected to happen in the next legislative session beginning in January, Sanchez said.
The Walmart case continues being on hold for now.
As KTSM previously reported, the state is waiting for the federal prosecutors’ decision on whether they will seek the death penalty, which won’t be announced until January.
The next status hearing for the state’s Walmart case is set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30 when judge Sam Medrano will determine who broke his gag order.
Medrano ordered Rosales to appear in court on Wednesday along with the former lead prosecutor on the case Curtis Cox.
This hearing was set after the release of audio tapes alleging the D.A.’s office might be involved with breaking the gag order.
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