Byrd announced months ago he would seek the death penalty for Miguel Espinal-Gomez, who spent his 26th birthday Thursday in the Upshur County Jail, where he has been confined since early January under $5 million bond. A pretrial hearing in the case is set for 10:30 a.m. Monday in 115th District Court.
Gomez is charged with the New Year’s Day stabbing deaths of Danny Clark and his paraplegic wife, Subrina Clark, at the Ervin Hill Housing Project in south Gilmer. The suspect was arrested within days afterward at a home in the Sulphur Springs area, where he lived, and is expected to go to trial in 2011.
Before 115th District Judge Lauren Parish imposed a gag order in the case, Byrd had said that Espinal-Gomez was an illegal alien from Honduras who had been in the United States for several years. Due to the gag order, Byrd said Thursday he could not say what month the case would go to trial next year.
Byrd said he himself, Warren, and an interpreter flew into what is considered the world’s most dangerous airport in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. The airport is near a mountain, and the pilot had to turn the airplane sideways to land, the district attorney said.
He and Warren took an interpreter along because no one in the area spoke English, he added.
Meantime, Byrd said he learned last week that the governor’s criminal justice board considered and approved the county’s grant application in the case. The governor’s office has funds to help rural counties of under 50,000 population to prosecute capital murder cases, whether the state seeks the death penalty or not, he said.
The grant requires no matching funds from the county, which had already budgeted $150,000 for the trial, and “it’s all going to be spent,” Byrd predicted. He said he told the state that prosecuting Espinal-Gomez would be a financial hardship on the county.
“I had to be very specific and put together a budget” in presenting the grant application to the governor’s board, Byrd noted. He said the funding would go for such matters as numerous expert witnesses; DNA testing; and travel expenses for witnesses.
The funding does not cover costs of a change of venue should the trial be moved to another county, he added.
Longview attorneys Kevin Settle and Lance Larison were appointed to represent Espinal-Gomez.