Thursday, April 1, 2010

Office of Capital Writs

SB 1091 established the Office of Capital Writs to provide legal representation for indigent capital murder defendants who are sentenced to death. The bill also created a Capital Writs Committee appointed by the State Bar of Texas president to recommend candidates for director of the capital writs office. The director is then to be appointed by the Court of Criminal Appeals. The first two implementation milestones below have been met and the Capital Writs Committee has issued a job posting, available on Texas Courts Online.

On or before January 1, 2010: The presiding judges of the administrative judicial regions shall complete and administer the statewide list of competent counsel available for appointment to represent defendants in applications for writs of habeas corpus.

On or before January 15, 2010: The president of the State Bar of Texas shall appoint the members of the capital writs committee.

On or before May 15, 2010: The capital writs committee shall submit to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals the list of candidates for the position of the director of the office of capital writs.

On or before September 1, 2010: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals shall appoint the director of the office of capital writs.

The funding for the office of capital writs begins in FY2011 and was included in the Office of Court Administration’s portion of the state budget. Our staff has met to begin planning the startup of the office, including finding office space to house the expected staff of 9.5 FTEs when it is fully implemented. We are also beginning to look at how to submit a Legislative Appropriations Request in August of this year, on behalf of an office that will not yet exist at that time.


  1. Can this organization obtain affidavits from defense counsel in a murder case where the sentence is for life? The affidavits needed are to state whether counsel was aware at the time of trial of a psychiatric report of the sole accusing witness's incompetence to testify. That report was mailed direct to the court ten days before trial, but was never circulated to defense counsel and the counsel has refused to make any statement of his knowledge of the report.