CORPUS CHRISTI — Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez appeared before the board of judges Tuesday to discuss the shortage of prosecutors at his office.
He said despite being down 12 prosecutors, his office is doing everything they can to move cases.
Gonzalez said pay — which is $15-$20,000 less than surrounding counties — is the problem, which makes it hard to compete.
“How can we come together as a group to help you guys,” 319th District Judge David Stith asked Gonzalez. “And, first off, understanding, you are your own office just as we are our own office, and in no way do we supervise, manage, control, or dictate any of that. Now what we can do is, if there’s a problem, how can we help?” Stith agreed that more money needs to be put into the justice system including better wages for prosecutors.
“The only real person sitting at the table that can help us unless you guys go to commissioners court and say ‘hey, we need more money,’ is Judge Canales who stepped out,” Gonzalez said.
Canales was present at the start of the meeting but had to leave for a meeting with Texas Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa.
“Right now I believe we are in a crisis,” 117th District Judge Sandra Watts, said. “Our jail is over 100 percent. Every time I think about folks that have been there over 100 days and you’re waiting for trials, that concerns me because of due process rights that we as the neutral party should be interested in.”
“If it’s manpower that’s the issue that we have because we are twelve people down, you call me, I’ll try the case myself,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s very nice to hear that you’re gonna be like an Aggie and be the 13th man on the field,” Watts said.
Gonzalez said he will not only step in to prosecute if he’s asked to, but he will also talk to defense attorneys to work on deals or dismiss cases for non-violent offenders to help with the overcrowding of the jail.
“If you have any non-violent cases that are sitting there for whatever reason, you'll come to me,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll work it out. And, if that means making a dismissal, I’ll be happy to take the hit from anybody out there watching and do what I gotta do so that way we keep the courts running.”