As officials search for the killer or killers of two Kaufman County prosecutors, a Texas House committee heard testimony on April 9 about a bill that would clarify that such a crime is capital murder.
“This bill came to me about two months ago, when the assistant prosecutor in my district was killed. The prosecutor who brought this to me has since been killed,” Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, told members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
On March 30, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot inside their house near Forney. The slayings come two months after the death of Mark Hasse, a Kaufman County assistant DA who was shot on his way to work.
House Bill 1845 would amend the capital murder statute to specify that it includes the retaliatory murder of a DA or a county attorney performing a DA’s duties.
Shannon Edmonds, staff attorney for governmental relations with the Texas District & County Attorneys Association, said the association is working with Gooden to revise the bill so it covers all prosecutors, not just elected DAs.
Cameron County Assistant DA L.J. Rabb said, in one case in his area, law enforcement intercepted letters from a gang member that called for a “green light” to kill two prosecutors. They were put under protection, Rabb said.
“Every day when we are in trial, we are the ones standing there facing these individuals and pointing our fingers at them and calling them names and sending them away for life,” Rabb said.
Rebecca Bernhardt, policy director with the Texas Defender Service, said she opposed the bill because under current law it’s already capital murder to kill a public servant, which includes prosecutors.
— Angela Morris