An attorney for a biker charged in the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout is challenging the McLennan County district attorney’s requirement that he sign a release form to receive the prosecutors’ evidence in the case.
A hearing date has been set for 11 a.m. Jan. 15 before Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court for a motion filed by Robert Callahan, whose client, William Aikin, was among the 106 indicted in the case so far. The noon-hour shootout left nine people dead and 20 wounded.
Callahan’s motion states he has not been able to receive the information, after numerous requests, because he won’t sign a condition of release regarding talking to the media.
He is asking for the prosecutors’ evidence collected during discovery to be released without the requirement that he sign the release agreement.
The motion states District Attorney Abel Reyna should not be allowed to limit the release of evidence based on an agreement regarding media after he gave an extensive TV interview explicitly designed to erode the defendants’ presumption of innocence.
“Such hypocrisy is exacerbated by the fact that the district attorney has subsequently given numerous interviews, despite being ordered by this court not to speak to the public regarding these cases pursuant to a gag order,” the motion states.
Reyna did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Callahan, who ran a write-in campaign against Reyna last year, said he is not signing the condition of release for the evidence against his client because of the principles of the matter. He said Reyna’s conditions go against an important state law.
The Michael Morton Act, which the Legislature passed in 2013, is named after a Texas man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years for the murder of his wife because prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence in his case.
The law says prosecutors must give defense attorneys access to discovery evidence or produce the evidence, without conditions, “as soon as practicable after receiving a timely request from the defendant.”
Attorneys across the state fought for the Michael Morton Act, and for a district attorney to whittle away at that law by issuing a condition is unthinkable, Callahan said.
He also said Reyna’s release form is not needed because state law already limits public disclosure of evidence before a trial.
“There are people that argue, ‘Well, you’re required to abide by these rules anyway,’ and that’s true. However, I don’t need a district attorney to give me a lecture on what those rules are and how they work, particularly after there’s been so much media surrounding his statements in the news,” Callahan said.
“We are trying to say as little as possible on our side in order to make sure we are upholding our end up, the right to a fair trial, but when there are just so many problems and so many conditions placed on these cases, we’re constantly having to fight these battles.”
Callahan is not the first attorney to cite problems accessing evidence in the case.
Callahan’s motion states discovery was requested June 1 and the district attorney refused to provide it without defense counsel signing an agreement that does not comply with the Michael Morton Act.
Discovery was requested again, but denied orally on multiple occasions, according to the document. It was requested yet again, this time in writing, on Sept. 13, the document says.
The district attorney’s office informed defense counsel that it thinks the Michael Morton Act does not require discovery to be produced until 20 days before trial, according to the document.
“In light of frequent reports that over 8,000 pages of discovery will be produced in this case, the assertion that the district attorney can wait to produce discovery until 20 days before trial is an affront to the justice system,” according to the document.
Callahan said it is obviously in the interest of the judicial system to be expedient and efficient.