A hearing initially set for Thursday morning to determine if 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother should be recused from the first Twin Peaks biker case set for trial was canceled late Wednesday because neither the biker nor his attorney could attend the hearing.
Houston attorney Casie Gotro, who represents Bandidos Dallas chapter President Christopher Jacob Carrizal, notified the court Wednesday evening that she and Carrizal were given inadequate notice of the hearing and won’t be able to attend.
No new date for the recusal hearing is set, but Senior Judge Dan Mills, appointed to hear the motion, has suggested 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Gotro could not be reached Wednesday evening and had not responded to the court’s email about the alternate hearing date.
The hearing Thursday would have been held eight days after a visiting judge recused Strother from hearing the cases of three bikers arrested at Twin Peaks.
Gotro filed a handwritten motion to recuse Strother on Friday as Strother was preparing to impanel 180 potential jurors in Carrizal’s case and ask them to fill out background questionnaires to aid in jury selection.
Jury selection in Carrizal’s trial is set to start Tuesday. However, if Strother is recused again, it could put Carrizal’s case on hold until regional administrative Judge Billy Stubblefield sorts through the litigation limbo.
A retired judge ruled Wednesday that 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother should be remo…
Stubblefield appointed Mills, who presided over a court that covered Blanco, Burnet, Llano and San Saba counties, to hear Gotro’s recusal motion.
The hearing was set because Strother declined to recuse himself, despite the fact that Gotro incorporated the same set of allegations attorneys for the three bikers used to get the judge recused.
“Judge Ralph Strother should be recused from this case,” a supplemental motion filed later by Gotro states. “His comments and his actions have demonstrated he is either unwilling or unable to remain fair and impartial in this case.
“Further, Judge Strother’s blatant bias for the state and equally blatant animus for the defendant and his counsel have reached fever pitch and are so extreme they have resulted in an outright denial of defendant’s rights to counsel, effective assistance of that counsel, due process and due course of law.”
Strother has presided over several heated hearings in which Gotro has accused prosecutors of lying and not providing her the evidence to which she is entitled, putting her in a precarious position of demanding a speedy trial for Carrizal but saying she can’t be ready until the state provides the evidence.
A retired judge assigned to determine if 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother should be …
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna has said his office wants to try Carrizal first. He and assistant Michael Jarrett continually have assured the court they have provided all materials they have available to Gotro, adding that when some DNA and ballistics evidence that Gotro wanted retested returns, they will provide that as soon as possible.
Gotro charges in her recusal motion that Strother ignored her pleadings to present evidence regarding the existence of police audio and video recordings made at the May 2015 Twin Peaks shootout that left nine dead and dozens injured.
“When defense counsel was finally able to locate enough independent corroboration proving the evidence existed, the state finally produced the evidence — to include an additional hour of video footage from one police car and nine audio recordings of witness statements — all of which have been in the exclusive possession of the state for two and a half years and all of which are now known to be favorable to the defense,” the motion states.
“Judge Strother has failed to make a single inquiry of the state regarding this material and favorable evidence,” according to the motion. “Rather he continues to blindly accept the state’s illogical and preposterous excuses.”
Mills was appointed in 2005 to be the first judge of the newly created 424th District Court. Before that, he served as a federal prosecutor in Austin for the Western District of Texas, which also includes Waco, for 18 years. Prior to that, he worked eight years as an assistant attorney general.
In removing Strother from cases involving bikers Thomas Paul Landers, Rolando Reyes and George Bergman, Judge James Morgan of Bosque County wrote the average man on the street might say, “Judge, you’re just not being fair.”