Updates on Waco Twin Peaks Biker Shooting
Retired Judge James Morgan was assigned to hear pending recusal motions filed by criminal defense attorneys representing the bikers in the Twin Peaks Biker Shooting. The motions were filed against Judge Ralph Strother because defense attorneys believed him to be biased in favor of the state.
Yesterday, Judge Morgan ruled that Judge Strother should be removed from three cases. Judge Morgan said that the average person may look at Strother’s rulings and say “Judge, you’re just not being fair.”
Initially, when the recusal motions were filed, I figured the attorneys representing the bikers would get their day in court only to protect against an appeal. After speaking to dozens of people that are familiar with law enforcement and the judicial system in Waco, reading endless media accounts, and seeing how these cases have been handled from the beginning, I never would have guessed that the prosecutor’s office and District Attorney Abel Reyna would receive such a blow.
Remember the $1 million dollar bonds across the board by a Justice of the Peace? When I wrote that blog, I got attacked publicly and privately by of course, other Justices of the Peace and law enforcement officials. But, I was right on the bond issue and they weren’t. This started as a miscarriage of justice and hopefully with this ruling, a message is being sent. Remember, we are talking about a case where D.A. Reyna’s father was almost the foreman of the grand jury! Forget the fact that the judge and Reyna were law partners. Trust me, in Miami, Florida, within seconds a judge facing similar facts would recuse themselves immediately.
Years ago, I was in court on a shoplifting case. The victim in this case was Walmart. The judge stopped the hearing to contact her stock broker. She returned a few minutes later and confirmed that she indeed owned stock in Walmart and recused herself! What? I didn’t think it was necessary and felt she could be impartial, but the judge would have none of it.
Attorney Gotro did state in reference to the ruling that Judge Strother should recuse himself from all cases involving the biker shooting, and I agree. Then again, if he doesn’t, he just tossed the defense a softball to hit out of the park on appeal.
The recusal motion focused mainly on two incidents. One, Judge Strother scheduled Carrizal first for trial, a request made by the District Attorney’s Office, however, other bikers wanted to go first. Why Judge Strother chose Carrizal first is anyone’s guess. Judge Strother did testify in the recusal hearing that he can decide how to run his docket, which is true. But, just because you are right doesn’t mean you are doing the correct thing. I have never witnessed a defendant(s) request speedy trial and the judge decides with the state attorney’s office to try another defendant first.
Another issue which is mind boggling, was a hearing that blindsided defense attorneys because the hearing was for the prosecutor’s office to serve DNA warrants. At the end of the day, those warrants would have been served regardless, but that is definitely no way to conduct a case. Not even a rookie judge would commit that mistake.
While retired Judge Morgan did rule in favor of the bikers, he did have positive comments to say about Judge Strother. “I certainly don’t believe it has been demonstrated that Judge Strother did anything singularly improper just to help the state. I’ve known the judge for many years and have the highest regard for him. “I don’t believe he would do anything that he felt would cause his removal from these cases. He wants to do his job, and he was trying to do just that. I’m sure he felt, as I would have, great frustration at the lack of progress on these cases, and that no doubt has prompted some of what has happened here.”