A month after a gunman killed a Kaufman County prosecutor on his way into work, commissioners are looking into building a new, safer courthouse.
Plans could move it from the city’s center, out near the Law Enforcement Center and Jail and making it more secure to transport inmates. Leaders hope it would pay tribute to Hasse and prevent another tragedy.
Right now, the Kaufman County Courthouse doesn’t have secured parking for judges, attorneys and other employees. It’s where Mark Hasse was gunned down heading into work Jan. 31. His murder is raising other major security concerns with the building that was built in the 1950’s,
“The facility is not secure for my people with the D.A.’s office, judges, witnesses, victims, safety is simply not there,” said Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland.
McLelland said the murder of his ADA, Mark Hasse, never should have happened, but it’s revealing security flaws inside and outside of the Kaufman County Courthouse.
Commissioners are taking notice during a special meeting Friday morning.
“We’re less than 100 feet from where he was murdered, so certainly that has brought it to the forefront. We’ve known for several years we had a space issue and a security issue. Certainly, this tragedy has brought it even more to the forefront and we’re trying to do the right thing,” said Dr. Bruce Wood, Kaufman County Judge.
Commissioners are considering building a new Justice Center to address the problems of the increasing number of packed courtrooms, jammed in with the DA’s Office, Clerk’s Office, District Clerk’s Office in the two-floor courthouse.
Built in 1955, the Historical Commission is forcing the county to eventually remove the metal detector from the entrance.
At times, a witness or victim comes face-to-face with a defendant in the small hallway.
“The potential for problems is always there,” said McLelland.
Voters denied a similar $35 million plan several years ago.
McLelland hopes if voters pass this plan, it could be a tribute to Mark Hasse.
“I would love nothing better than have the center named after Mark,” said McLelland.
A new justice center still has a long way to go. It would be studied by the county. The community would have the chance to give its feedback, and ultimately the decision would be in the hands of voters.