A slew of state grants and help from Attorney General’s office prosecutors are going to be necessary for the next murder trial, Wharton County District Attorney Dawn Allison told commissioners Tuesday.
Robert Satterfield stands accused of killing the Angleton couple and their 5-year-old son on June 16, 2018, before trying to burn their bodies near Burr in East Wharton County.
His trial, which could end in a death sentence, is expected to get under way in May.
“We are requesting a budget increase from the Office of the Governor for our County Essential Services Grant,” Allison said, adding court reporter funding was already exhausted.
The DA is hoping for $16,000. Commissioners approved the request unanimously with Precinct 3 Commissioner Stephen Goetsch absent.
“For death penalty cases, daily transcripts are often needed. We anticipate the Satterfield trial to last nine weeks (six weeks pertaining to jury selection, and three weeks pertaining to guilt/innocence and punishment phases of the trial),” Allison said. “Those daily transcripts can run anywhere from $200-$500 a day in court reporter fees.”
The upcoming May effort is about justice for Ray Shawn Hudson Sr., 28, Maya Victoria Rivera, 24, and 5-year-old Ray Shawn Hudson Jr.
Satterfield was given the opportunity to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, but rejected the offer on April 23, 2019. Since then, he has remained in the Wharton County Jail.
There’s no fee for the state prosecutor, but other portions of the trial could be costly, Allison said, adding there’s no funding in the county budget, “which is why we found it necessary to apply and obtain a grant for death penalty trial related costs ...expert testimony including travel expenses, additional staff, office supplies, jury costs, etc.”
Assistant District Attorney Cristine Patty has taken the lead on the funding efforts.
(With) “her grueling work in researching and applying for these grants, she has and is saving the county an exorbitant amount of money,” Allison said. “She has done this on top of her regular duties of prosecuting criminal cases.”
Satterfield is the first of a dozen people currently facing homicide charges in the county.
“There is a plethora of defendants to prosecute for the offense of murder in Wharton County. Fortunately, I have developed an excellent rapport with the Attorney General’s office and they have agreed to assist in the prosecution of some of these cases,” Allison said.
It’s the start of 2022 now and last year brought seven new homicide cases related to three murders with three in 2020.
More homicide or first degree felony cases would not be welcome, the DA said.
“Our staff is currently overwhelmed and everyone is already working long and extra hours in an effort to keep up,” Allison said, adding there (is) no additional staffing funding in the county budget. “Without funds for additional staff such as an attorney, investigator and administrative assistant, I am not sure how long everyone can keep up this pace.”
Allison is supported by three assistant district attorneys, one investigator, three legal assistants, a receptionist and a Victims Assistance Coordinator.
The DA also received permission to renew a grant request for the coordinator.
“With the funds ... we were able to hire a dedicated staff member to work with crime victims (last year). She (Kaitlyn Velasquez) keeps the crime victims apprised of upcoming court dates, offers referrals to support services, and maintains strict records that our office is required to keep. She is doing a fantastic job, is a valued team member and we definitely want to renew her position for 2023,” Allison said.