Three attorneys filed motions Friday in an effort to remove 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother from hearing their clients’ cases stemming from the deadly Twin Peaks shootout in 2015.
The filings allege Strother has shown bias in the proceedings.
Dallas attorney Clint Broden, who represents George Bergman; Susan Criss, a former state district judge from Galveston who represents Rolando Reyes; and Austin attorney Millie Thompson, who represents Thomas Paul Landers, filed similar recusal motions seeking to remove Strother from the pending criminal cases relating to the Twin Peaks shootout in May 2015.
All three attorney state the judge has shown favor to the state.
Strother said he had not received the newly filed motions Friday morning and declined comment when reached by the Tribune-Herald.
Strother has presided over the three bikers’ cases since the cases’ inception. All three men were arrested, along with 174 others, on identical charges of engaging in organized criminal activity the day of the shootout that left nine dead and several injured.
Broden’s filing argues Strother’s actions indicate he would not be an impartial judge for Bergman, a member of the Desgraciados, a Bandidos support group. He argues Strother has had prohibited communication with prosecutors that defendants were not privy to, known as ex-parte communications.
Broden also states Strother has made improper comments to media outlets and has assigned court dates to defendants to benefit the state.
“In an ideal world, it would go without saying that the United States Constitution guarantees any defendant the right to an impartial judge,” the motion states. “Mr. Bergman deserves nothing less.”
In a similar filing, Criss alleges Strother should be disqualified for bias against Reyes, a member of the Los Caballeros from Killeen, which has resulted in due process violations. She also cites alleged ex-parte communications, particularly in connection to setting up a docket in February that required defendants to appear and allowed prosecutors to collect DNA samples.
Similarly, Thompson’s filing states Landers, a founding member of the Escondido motorcycle group and an active motorcyclists’ rights advocate, had not been made aware of the district attorney’s communications in creating the February DNA docket. She also alleges Strother gave a “preferred strategic lineup” for the order of trials.
“Judge Strother has expressed and acted upon a bias for the state, such that the defense now has an additional opponent in the courtroom in the Twin Peaks cases,” Thompson states in her motion.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and his first assistant, Michael Jarrett, stated in court that they want Christopher Jacob Carrizal, a Bandido from Dallas, to be the first of the 155 bikers indicted to stand trial. Several defense attorneys have requested the right to a speedy trial. Carrizal is set for trial Sept. 11 in 19th State District Court.
A call and message left for Reyna were not returned Friday.