The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday put a hold on proceedings involving a gag order issued by a McLennan County state district judge in the case of a biker arrested in the Twin Peaks shootout.
The ruling by the state’s highest criminal court stays an order released last week by Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals.
The intermediate appellate court held that 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson abused his discretion when he limited pretrial publicity in Hewitt biker Matthew Clendennen’s case. The court instructed Johnson to vacate his gag order within seven days, which expired Thursday.
The Court of Criminal Appeals’ stay leaves the gag order in effect while it considers an appeal of the 10th Court’s ruling by McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna.
Reyna asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to rule that Johnson’s decision to issue the gag order was proper because he said defendants’ rights to fair trials are in jeopardy because of “a danger of prejudice from pretrial publicity.”
After Johnson’s order, Clendennen’s attorney, Clint Broden, filed an emergency petition for writ of mandamus with the 10th Court and argued that the gag order violates Clendennen’s right to free speech.
He also alleged the judge’s findings to adopt the gag order were “insufficient to establish that any unidentified pretrial publicity in this case has risen to the level that it poses an imminent and severe harm to a fair and impartial trial.”
The Court of Criminal Appeals gave parties on both sides 30 days to file briefs in the appeal.
Clendennen is one of 177 bikers arrested May 17 after nine bikers were killed and 18 others were wounded in the Twin Peaks melee.