EL PASO, Texas -- Claiming a "staggering" amount of evidence to wade through for the future trial of accused El Paso Walmart shooter Patrick Crusius, his defense has now asked to add a third lawyer to their team.
The motion filed with a judge on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by ABC-7 on Friday, seeks to have well-known El Paso criminal attorney Felix Valenzuela join existing defense lawyers Mark Stevens of San Antonio and Joe Spencer of El Paso in representing Crusius. (See end of this article to read the entire motion.)
Valenzuela has worked with Spencer previously, most notably in successfully defending Daniel Villegas in what was a high-profile El Paso murder case spanning over two decades that ended with Villegas' acquittal in his third trial late last year.
The motion claims Valenzuela is needed in Crusius' case because “the amount of work this case requires is staggering, and it would be impossible for first and second chair to carry out all of the tasks required of defense counsel, even with the assistance of investigators and other experts."
In making the case for an addition of a third defense attorney, Stevens and Spencer maintained "it would be fundamentally unfair to require the defense to proceed with only two attorneys as counsel of record, when the State of Texas has appeared at every court setting with between three and five attorneys and has at its disposal ninety lawyers at the El Paso District Attorney’s Office, including an entire appellate division, as well as numerous state and federal investigative agencies.”
Because Crusius is indigent and has qualified for legal representation at public expense, the court must approve the addition of Valenzuela to the defense.
In the motion, Crusius' defense team said it has received thousands upon thousands of files from prosecutors that need to be reviewed and noted that “the obligations of defense counsel in capital proceedings are significantly greater than in a standard criminal case, and this case is particularly complex.”
More than 11,000 evidence files and 600 gigabytes of computer data has been turned over to date, including medical records from local hospitals that treated the mass shooting victims and witness interview statements.
In their motion, Stevens and Spencer said they expect prosecutors will be turning over a significant amount of additional evidence that will also need to be reviewed before the defense is ready for trial.
“Defense counsel fully anticipate that yet more discovery will be forthcoming and that the State will not truly have complied with its discovery obligations for many, many months to come, given the vast investigative resources the prosecution has devoted to this case at both the state and federal levels,” the motion reads.
No date has yet been set for Crusius' trial on a charge of capital murder stemming from the Aug. 3 mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart store that killed 22 people and left dozens more wounded. Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty for what is believed to have been a racially-motivated attack that targeted Mexicans and Hispanics.