The judge presiding over what is scheduled to be the first Twin Peaks biker trial postponed for a week the reporting date for a panel of 600 potential jurors after a contentious hearing in the case Thursday.
Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court ordered the potential jurors to report Sept. 1 to be impaneled and to fill out questionnaires. The group had been set to report Friday morning.
While he postponed the date of impaneling, Strother kept the Sept. 12 date for jury selection in Christopher Jacob Carrizal’s trial to begin, despite motions to stay the proceedings from Carrizal’s attorney and her promises to file an 11th-hour motion to recuse Strother from presiding over the trial.
The judge has previously referred to a Sept. 11 start date for the trial, but since its scheduling, jury selection has been expected to start Sept. 12. Jury panels typically report on Mondays, but the courthouse can’t accommodate the large Twin Peaks panel at the same time as panels for other cases.
Like recent hearings in the Carrizal case, prosecutors, defense attorney Casie Gotro and the judge exchanged arguments Thursday that grew more heated as the hearing progressed.
Strother ordered Gotro and Carrizal to be in court Thursday morning after neither showed up for a hearing earlier this week. The judge threatened to revoke his bond if Carrizal, Dallas chapter president of the Bandidos motorcycle group, failed to appear Thursday.
Gotro continued to assert that prosecutors have failed to produce evidence she needs to prepare for trial and criticized the judge for not ordering the state to comply with her subpoenas for records in the complex case.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and his first assistant, Michael Jarrett, renewed their assurances to the court that they have given Gotro and other attorneys representing the 154 other Twin Peaks defendants all the evidence and other materials that they are entitled to and that is available.
Gotro insisted that four videos from the Department of Public Safety that she only received last week after repeated requests contain evidence favorable to her client.
Jarrett quickly objected, saying it is “not realistic” to think that anything on the tapes is exculpatory.
Gotro said she can’t be ready to proceed with jury selection until she is convinced the state has provided the evidence she is entitled to, hinting that the state is committing prosecutorial misconduct.
Gotro also went after the judge, saying she feels like Carrizal has no judge in his case and that she is going up against two prosecutors. She charged the judge with favoring the prosecution and said she will file a motion to recuse Strother.
No recusal motion had been filed by the end of the work day Thursday.
“I am bending over backward to make sure everybody gets a fair trial,” Strother said.
The judge asked Gotro on several occasions what specific evidence she thinks she is not being provided by the state. She answered only that the information she seeks is outlined in her subpoenas.
“So where it the name of God does that leave us?” a frustrated Strother asked. “What are we supposed to do about tomorrow and the jury panel? How do we ever get to the point that we can ever go to trial in this matter?”
As the debate grew more contentious, Strother asked the parties to meet with him in his chambers. Gotro said she wanted her client with her in the judge’s office and asked that the meeting be recorded by a court reporter.
Strother agreed. The group met behind closed doors for about 45 minutes, and the judge announced the postponement of the jury impaneling.
Gotro gave the court assurances last week that she would be ready for the Sept. 12 trial date. However, if she files a recusal motion and a subsequent application for writ of mandamus with Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals in an attempt to get the court to order the release of the evidence she feels she lacks, that trial date could be in limbo.