Changes could be coming to Texas courts as 2 bills prioritize murder trials, add more courts

Daniela Hurtado Image
Friday, March 17, 2023
Changes could be coming to TX courts, 2 bills prioritize murder trials
Meanwhile, in Harris County, this week, commissioners approved support for a bill that would add six criminal courts.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- Two important bills that can make an impact on the court system are making their way before the legislature in Austin this session.

The first bill is Senate Bill 402, the sponsors' goals are to prioritize murder and capital murder court cases.

The other is House Bill 130, it's the push for more courts to alleviate the backlog in Harris County.

This week, Harris County commissioners approved support for HB130 which would add six criminal courts in Harris County.

Here's why it's important.

SEE ALSO: Proposal to add more criminal courts to help ease backlog in Harris County

"We haven't added but one court since 1984," county Commissioner Adrian Garcia said.

Since then, he says the population of Harris County has roughly doubled.

"So this is critical when you think about the growth and exposure of our population that we have to have a system that is sustainable from the standpoint of the need that comes our way," Garcia added.

State Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement that the citizens of Harris County need help restoring their faith in the justice system. According to lawmakers, in Harris County, there are more than 1,800 murder or capital murder cases still awaiting trial. Supporters of the bill hope it won't only reduce the backlog at the courthouse but the overcrowding at the jail. Meanwhile, critics are worried about the cost.

"From a budgetary, having a well-run courthouse has an impact on the sheriff's jail can keep us from having to outsource inmates that cost us over 11 million dollars a year," Garcia said.

A separate bill was passed by the Senate, SB402, this week that would prioritize murder and capital murder cases over other criminal trials. That bill has to pass the house before it can become law. Two important pieces of legislation we're watching closely.

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