HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Buried under crushing criminal court case loads, prosecutor after prosecutor after prosecutor pleaded with Harris County Commissioners to grant District Attorney Kim Ogg's request for 102 additional lawyers - reinforcements for a justice system desperately seeking to separate the salvageable from the pathological.
"I am here to fight for them. They are tired of working from 6am to 10pm at night, all day on the weekends. They need help figuring out which people need to be diverted and which people need to be prosecuted. We want the low level people to be diverted. We want to get the bad guys. The people we are afraid of," said Vivian King, Chief of Staff for the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
"If right now they were to work ten days straight working 24 hours a day they could not get all their tasks done, if they started right now. That doesn't include eating or sleeping. If they did it for ten days straight they couldn't complete their job," said Nathan Beedle, Division Chief at HCDAO.
But activists who see Harris County criminal justice as both punitive and oppressive towards poor people of color, equate more prosecutors with more prosecutions.
"Do we really need 102 new prosecutors to aid into the continuing of mass incarceration? Surely not," said Ebuoluwa Akinola with the Texas Organizing Project.
"We are turning Harris County into a police state. That is not what we voted for in 2016. That is not what we voted for in 2018 and we will remember this," said Ashton Woods of Black Lives Matter.
Halfway through her second month as County Judge, Lina Hidalgo sided with the activists and along with Democratic Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia slammed the door on the DA's request.
"That many more prosecutors is not the most effective nor the only way in any shape form or fashion to get our system moving and our caseloads down," said Hidalgo.
Commissioner Jack Cagle offered a compromise proposal to fund just 25 new prosecutors, but the motion was defeated.
After the vote, DA Ogg issued the following statement:
"We will continue to fight every day to ensure that justice is done in every case for every crime victim, every defendant, and the community.
Harris County must have a District Attorney’s Office with sufficient resources to ensure that all cases are resolved fairly and in a timely manner.
As prosecutors, we wear many hats, but we have only one job to do, and we must always do it well: to see that justice is done in every single instance, in every single case."