A pretrial status conference for one of the 155 bikers indicted in a deadly May 2015 shootout turned contentious Wednesday as attorneys argued how evidence from a federal investigation of the Bandidos biker group might affect Twin Peaks prosecutions in McLennan County.
Houston attorney Casie Gotro sparred with McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and his top assistant, Michael Jarrett, on Wednesday morning during a hearing in the case of Christopher Jacob Carrizal, a Bandido from Dallas.
At one point, Jarrett asked 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother to instruct Gotro “not to put her hand in my face,” to which Gotro huffed and said, “Oh, come on.”
Gotro, who replaced Carrizal’s initial lawyer last month, said she has spent at least 250 hours reviewing the massive amount of evidence that prosecutors have turned over to defense attorneys, including videos, photographs, police records and cellphone records.
Reyna filed a letter he received in late March from U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin informing him that federal authorities prosecuting top national Bandidos officers in San Antonio have information that relates to Twin Peaks cases but said they will not share it with McLennan County prosecutors until after the federal trial.
That development has already delayed the trials of a few bikers in Waco, but Gotro said Wednesday that Carrizal will be ready to go to trial by July, adding she doesn’t think any evidence federal authorities have relates to her client.
Still, Gotro charged that Reyna did not follow proper legal channels in his attempt to try to get federal authorities to show their evidence under what is known as Brady vs. Maryland, case law that requires prosecutors to turn over all evidence favorable to defendants.
Reyna agreed at one point to file a joint motion with Gotro in San Antonio to request the evidence again. Reyna told Strother he is trying to get federal lawmakers to intervene on his behalf with Durbin. Later, Gotro said she would file motions in San Antonio to try to get evidence released through a judge’s order.
Jarrett asked Gotro if Carrizal is willing to sign an affidavit that he would never appeal any potential conviction on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel if he goes to trial without the benefit of seeing the federal evidence and some of it later turns out to be exculpatory.
“We are sitting on a ticking time bomb here,” Jarrett said. “We don’t want to have to be trying these cases twice if they get overturned on appeal.”
Strother, who postponed Carrizal’s initial May 22 trial date after Gotro signed onto the case, has questioned whether the Twin Peaks cases can proceed until federal authorities reveal what evidence they have that relates to Twin Peaks. He raised the question again Wednesday.
“Federal officials obviously have information of some type,” the judge said. “What I’m trying to figure out is can any of us proceed without knowing what that is? . . . We are dealing with a black hole. There is no light emanating from it, and nobody knows what is there.”
Reyna said he had a meeting set with the FBI and federal prosecutors in San Antonio to discuss the evidence, but he said they canceled the meeting.
Strother scheduled another status conference for Carrizal for May 19, two days after the two-year anniversary of the bloody incident in which nine bikers were killed and dozens were injured.