The Role of the District Attorney’s Office
The Office of the District Attorney consists of various departments and specialized divisions that work to represent the people of both Webb and Zapata Counties in the prosecution of criminal cases.
District Attorney Isidro R. Alaniz serves as the Prosecutor for the People of the 49th Judicial District of Texas. As the Chief Prosecutor, the District Attorney is popularly elected and serves a four-year term of office. District Attorney Alaniz is assisted in administrating the District Attorney’s Office by Chief Assistant District Attorney Marisela S. Jacaman and Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Pedro “Pete” Garza.
The administrative heads of the office of the District Attorney are Chief Investigator Oscar “OJ” Hale, Sr. and Deputy Chief Investigator Ricardo Mendez. Ms. Adela Flores serves as the Office Manager and Mr. David Sanchez is the Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Cecilia Garcia serves as the Executive Assistant for the District Attorney.
Intake and Filing
The intake division is responsible for receiving law enforcement reports of criminal conduct and distributing them to the various prosecutorial units within the office. Once distributed, the cases are reviewed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with felony or misdemeanor charges against those persons accused of the crimes that are the subject of the reports. An individual charged with a crime is referred to as a Defendant throughout the judicial process.
There are preliminary hearings in court which include an Arraignment during which a defendant offers a plea of innocence or guilt and legal counsel for the defendant is established. From that point, evidence is examined by the District Attorney’s Office and discussions begin with the defendant’s counsel. During this time, a case is reviewed and the possibility of various outcomes arises, including indictments, plea agreements, dismissals and/or trial.
A Criminal Trial
When charged with either a felony or misdemeanor crime, a defendant may face a criminal trial. In a felony trial, a defendant’s case is tried before a judge and twelve jurors. During a misdemeanor trial, a judge presides over the proceedings but the jurors are limited to six individuals. In both instances, witnesses and experts may be called to testify on behalf of both sides of the case: the defense and the prosecution. When all the evidence is heard, both sides rest and the jury deliberates the guilt or innocence of the accused. If the jurors find a defendant guilty, then the sentencing phase begins. Jurors may hear arguments and testimony during the sentencing phase and deliberate to determine the punishment to be imposed upon those that have been found guilty. If the jury finds the defendant not guilty or acquits the defendant, the process then ends. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, then a mistrial is declared and there may be a new trial.