Hays Co. approves new hire to go through cases with high-profile evidence

Hays County District Attorney's Office sees mounting evidence backlog (KXAN Photo)
Hays County District Attorney's Office sees mounting evidence backlog (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – Hays County commissioners are approving the additional hire of a new administrator for the district attorney’s office to help with a backlog of evidence.

Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau says the caseload increased by 7 percent from 2015 to 2016 and expects the amount of cases to continue to grow. The new position will be a temporary full-time position to help process digital evidence.

The increased case load is due to several high profile cases that have a considerable amount of evidence to review and mark.

“In a regular case you may have one or two video recordings, some audio recordings and several pages of documents. In a high profile murder case, you are going to have weeks of investigation that’s going to generate thousands of pages of records, dozens of videos, dozens of sound recordings and all of that stuff has to be brought into the DA’s office and processed through our system,” said Mau.

He adds that even regular criminal cases are producing a large amount of digital evidence due to more police officers wearing body cameras.

“So now, whereas you used to just get a video from one police officer’s car, now if there were three officers who arrived at the scene, you have three videos. Just the amount of data that the police is collecting now, which is good for the prosecution and it’s good for the defense, but it creates a lot more work to make sure all of that information gets processed and analyzed and sorted the way it needs to be,” said Mau.

Currently, only eight administrators work in the district attorney’s office and have to sort through thousands of cases a year.

“Although we have some backlog now, that backlog is only going to grow unless we get more personnel to handle the amount of work,” said Mau. “The cases come in faster than our intake people can keep up with them.”

At the San Marcos Police Department, Commander Kelly Earnest says requests for video from the district attorney’s office happens on a daily basis.

“I’m fielding generally between 8 and 10 requests a day and that can be multiple videos because most calls that are going to trial that end up being a criminal offense will have multiple officers on scene,” said Earnest.

Mau says his goal is to have a case on a prosecutor’s desk within 30 days of the person’s arrest for review. He says the backlog is in the form of cases that are ready to be sent to the prosecutor. “My largest concern are the cases that are between 30 and 60 days from arrest, and when my staff has not been able to get to them for having to work on cases that are older,” he said.

Mau estimates that his staff is about a month behind where he would like them to be. “They have prioritized jail cases, so we don’t have individuals sitting in jail any longer than necessary without a charge being filed, but I would like to see the bonded cases get filed more quickly as well, and I think the extra staff will help to expedite some of those cases that otherwise would be delayed,” said Mau.

The new position will be effective from Feb. 16 to Sept. 30 paying around $18,000 during that time. The position will be funded with drug forfeiture funds.

“I think it’s a very wise decision on the part of the DA to go forward, anything that we can do to make the court system more efficient is good for everyone, it’s good for the victim and it’s good for the community,” said Earnest.

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