WACO -- A visiting judge on Monday denied the McLennan County District Attorney's Office's effort to recuse 19th District Court Judge Ralph Strother from two upcoming Twin Peaks shooting trials.
In a hearing last week, defense attorneys for bikers Billy McRee and Jorge Daniel Salinas tried to have the McLennan County District Attorney's Office and DA Abel Reyna thrown off the trials. But, the DA's office attempted to stall that hearing saying it had not had enough time to prepare, and when Strother would not wait, the DA's office filed its own motion to have him removed -- leading to Monday's latest hearing on that motion inside the McLennan County Courthouse.
Judge Phillip Vick, of Denton, was the visiting judge called to hear the recusal motion for Judge Strother. McRee waived his right to appear in court because he had to work. Salinas, however, was there.
DA Abel Reyna did not attend Monday's hearing. Prosecutors Brody Burke and Michael Jarrett represented the state.
McRee's defense attorney David Conrad Beyer said he believed Judge Strother would give his client a fair trial. The defense team argued the state only filed the motion to recuse Strother in an attempt to delay last week's hearing. Salinas' defense attorney Brian Bouffard said the state's attempt to recuse Strother was "ludicrous."
Judge Vick asked prosecutors why they were just now saying that Strother was unfit to sit on the bench. Prosecutors argued that Strother had already been recused from three other Twin Peaks cases. He recused himself from a fourth. Prosecutors claimed the stain from his removal in the other three now make him unfit to hear future cases.The state said if Vick recused Strother from this trial, prosecutors will ask to have him recused from every other Twin Peaks trial moving forward. Jarrett said Strother currently has about 70 Twin Peaks cases pending in court.
But, early Monday afternoon, Judge Vick ruled against prosecutors -- meaning Strother will remain on the Twin Peaks trials. Vick said prosecutors failed to prevent enough evidence to support their motion.
"While it was clear from the second it was filed that the District Attorney’s recusal motion was only for purposes of delay, we are, nevertheless, pleased that Judge Vick was able to see through Abelino Reyna’s charade," Bouffard said in a statement. "Any fair minded person must ask themselves why Mr. Reyna is so desperate to delay the truth about his actions from being brought to light."