AUSTIN (KXAN) – More than two and a half years after a man was murdered in an East Austin apartment complex, the family of the victim continues waiting for justice for their loved one, LeQuince Tomlin.
The first full day of the capital murder trial for Allen Keith Townsend began Tuesday in the 299th criminal district court, in connection to Tomlin’s death in November 2014.
For Tomlin’s family, it’s a day they’ve been waiting for since he died.
According to an arrest affidavit, two men “bum rushed” their way into a unit at the Walnut Creek Apartments on Springdale Road and asked for Tomlin, who had been sleeping on a living room couch.
The two other people in the apartment were ordered to get on the floor as one of the suspects took money from Tomlin at gunpoint. As the two men were leaving the apartment, one of them shot Tomlin, the affidavit said.
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore says she understands why Tomlin’s family is frustrated with how long it’s taken their son’s case to see its day in court. Waiting for justice, she says, shouldn’t take this long.
“I’m glad we’re finally here. This is a difficult case for them to deal with, of course, they lost their son,” said Moore. “I’m just horrified that it’s taken this long.”
In an effort to address the delays in previous cases, just like the Townsend trial, the District Attorney’s Office has implemented a new policy. The policy outlines a trial court timeline for prosecutors to follow, to make sure the office does everything in its power to effectively and efficiently respond to every case that comes in, at every phase.
“It’s a high priority. The biggest factor to me is when I see these victims that have been waiting for their case to come to some sort of resolution for two, three, four years. That’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Moore. “What we’re trying to do is have the case ready for trial within 120 days. I don’t think 120 days is unreasonable to expect a major case to be ready.”
Responsibilities for victim outreach for violent crimes also has guidelines.
“We are asking that our prosecutors and our victim witness people get in contact with a victim within seven to 10 days with violent crime, and 24-48 hours in a family violence case,” she added. “There’s just a need for victims to see resolution to cases.”
The DA’s Office say they try to adhere to a timeline after a person is indicted. The case management timeline includes:
- Within 7-10 days post indictment: Victim outreach by prosecutor to notify of indictment and first setting/discuss possible outcomes; review case and work on any follow up investigation
- Within 30 days post indictment: Begin gathering discovery, all items submitted to lab or results requested, pleadings checked, begin witness contact, if necessary
- Within 90 days post indictment: Discovery complete; make offer to defense (in writing if possible) after victim input and notification; all necessary evidence submitted to lab for testing; re-indictment done if necessary
- Within 120 days post indictment: Final offer made, case ready for plea or trial; no plea bargaining on day of trial without approval of a director.
“There need to be written policies in a DA’s office, and this is just one area where you need them. They’re important to not only inform the public about how we’re managing the office in what’s happening with these cases. They’re important that the victims know what is happening,” added Moore.
The district attorney says there may be legitimate reasons for delays her office cannot avoid going forward. However, she says those will now be tracked to make certain they are followed up on well into the future and analyzed to understand why certain guidelines cannot be met and why.