Jury selection in the trial of the first of the May 2015 Twin Peaks shootout defendants is set to begin Tuesday morning.
A panel of about 150 prospective jurors filled out five-page questionnaires Monday morning and were told to report again at 9 a.m. Tuesday for the beginning of jury selection.
Jacob Carrizal, 36, Bandidos Dallas chapter president, is the first of the 154 indicted Twin Peaks bikers to go to trial. Carrizal, an employee of a Dallas railway company, is charged with one count of directing activities of a criminal street gang, one count of engaging in organized criminal activity with murder as an underlying charge and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity with aggravated assault as the underlying charge.
After the prospective jurors were released Monday, 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson conducted a pretrial hearing in the afternoon to wrap up some last-minute discovery matters and to rule on various motions from the state and Carrizal’s attorneys, Casie Gotro and Thomas Lane.
Jury selection is expected to last most of Tuesday, with opening statements from attorneys and prosecution testimony expected to begin Wednesday morning. Court officials expect the trial to last about two weeks.
Authorities worked over the weekend to tighten security measures around the McLennan County Courthouse. A temporary, metal fence was placed around the perimeter of the 115-year-old building and officials have blocked access to curbside parking spots on three sides of the courthouse.
Black curtains have been placed over windows in areas where the jury or those involved in the trial could be viewed walking from the outside of the courthouse and a canvas tent was erected in the alley between the courthouse and the annex to shield the jury as they walk between the buildings.
The questionnaires are meant to aid attorneys in jury selection and inquire about the potential jurors’ knowledge of the Twin Peaks shootout, if they have friends or relatives in law enforcement, if they know the parties or potential witnesses in the case and if they have been a victim of crime.
Other questions ask their views on the so-called “motorcycle lifestyle,” if they belong to any groups, such as the NRA, NAACP, ACLU, and if they consider themselves a follower or a leader.
One potential juror, as he did on Sept. 29 when the group was first impaneled, wore a McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna campaign T-shirt.
In the afternoon session, Gotro asked the judge to order the state and its witnesses to refrain from referring to motorcycle groups as “gangs” or “criminal street gangs,” arguing that is a determination to be made by the jury. Prosecutor Michael Jarrett agreed to abide by the request and the judge granted her motion.
Gotro’s motion also asked the judge to order the state not to refer to any child pornography reportedly found on the phones of one or more of the Twin Peaks bikers. Jarrett also agreed.
“We will not be prosecuting this case on child pornography charges,” Jarrett told the judge.
Gotro renewed her concerns that the state’s witness list contains 450 names, which has been pared down from about a month ago when she said there were 600 names on the potential state witness list.
She asked the judge if the state could specify more clearly how many witnesses prosecutors actually intend to call. Jarrett said the names are on the list out of an abundance of caution. All are potential witnesses, he said, adding that he didn’t want to leave a name off the list and later hear defense complaints that the witness was not on the list.
“I realize this is a very complex case and there are a lot of moving parts,” Johnson said.
“There won’t be any surprises,” Jarrett said. “We aren’t playing games, your honor.”