LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A district judge has appointed counsel for an East Texas man accused of killing a Lufkin woman and her brother in July.
In a hearing on Tuesday, Terrance Barnes, 31, told District Judge Paul White that he could not personally afford an attorney. White made contact with Barnes' mother, who he was told was hiring a lawyer for Barnes.
"I spoke with his mother and that did not give me any confidence level that they were going to be able to hire counsel," said Judge Paul White.
White has appointed Jack Stroffregen, chief public defender of the Regional Capital Public Defender Office.
"I don't have to make that appointment, but I chose to do so for a number of reasons. I found him [the public defender] to be competent," said White.
This will be the first capital murder case to be tried under a new agreement through the county for capital murder cases. According to White, the agreement was made in 2011, and this case will put it to the test.
"Judge Suiter signed on to a new inter-local agreement to use a public defender's office for capital cases," said White.
Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington says this "test run" could save taxpayers money.
"Proper counsel can, in the long run, if you can prevent a retrial, can actually be cost-effective," said Herrington.
According to White, there are no qualified lawyers to serve on capital murder cases in Angelina County.
"It's a blessing. It's no discredit to our local lawyers. We just haven't had the volume of capital murder cases that would entitle them to be credentialed," said White.
"To be qualified, for example, they have to have actually been a participant as a lawyer in several capital murder trials," said Herrington.
Barnes is now being held in the Angelina County Jail, waiting indictment from the grand jury. A grand jury is likely to meet in early September. From there, Barnes will have to be arraigned.
Authorities believe Barnes stabbed his girlfriend, Rosa Pina, and her brother, Pepe Pina, to death at their residence on John Kolb Road on July 26. He was arrested in the area that night, following a massive manhunt. Authorities say he confessed to the stabbings.