Research Scientist, Public Policy Research Institute
Judgment and Justice
An Evaluation of the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases
This report details the important benefits available to Texas counties participating in the Regional Public Defender Office for Capital Cases (RPDO). Among the report's key findings:
- Because the costs of defense are pre-paid through an annual fee, member counties are willing to appoint a full capital team earlier and in a larger proportion of cases than non- member counties.
- RPDO's strategic focus on early mitigation investigations is much more likely to result in disposition of the case by plea, thus avoiding costly capital trials.
- Counties that join the RPDO are in immediate conformance with standards of quality for capital defense recommended by the State Bar of Texas Guidelines and Standards for Texas Capital Counsel.
- Sentencing outcomes are better for clients with public defenders. Just one in 26 RPDO clients in the matched study sample received a sentence of death. Among private assigned counsel, one in five clients received this worst possible outcome.
This study finds that the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases (RPDO) increases access, improves quality, and reduces costs of death penalty representation in small to mid-sized counties.