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Attorneys for former Fort Worth officer who killed Atatiana Jefferson argue judge is biased

Kaley Johnson and Emerson Clarridge, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in News & Features

Smith questioned Carter, who has been an attorney in Tarrant County since 1972, about whether he was personally interested in the June 3 hearing because he may be concerned about his own future vacation time being honored by judges.

“If one judge ignored vacation letters, it might happen to you?” Smith said to him.

“Exactly,” Carter replied.

Hagerman has moved the trial three times previously — twice to grant motions of continuance from the defense. The trial was also delayed in January because defense attorney Jim Lane is seriously ill and could not participate in the case.

Gill questioned another witness, Fort Worth attorney Mark Daniel, about the rules surrounding vacation time. Daniel said local rules allow attorneys to take vacation if they have put in a formal request, as Gill did, and he had never known a judge to defy those rules. Daniel said the news spread through the Tarrant County courthouse “like wildfire” that a vacation request might not be honored.

Prosecuting attorney Ashlea Deener questioned Daniel about his additional knowledge of the case, and implied all the information he has received about the case has come from Gill. She pointed out Carter did not know for a fact that Hagerman would not have allowed Gill to go on vacation, and he did not know what rulings Hagerman has made throughout the rest of the case.

 

“No personal knowledge about this topic?” she asked.

“No ma’am,” Carter said.

Prosecutors noted that Hagerman invited Dean’s defense attorneys to renew a change of venue motion to move the trial out of the county once jury selection is underway if it became clear that too many prospective jurors are tainted.

But because jury prospects, after listening to prosecutors ask questions of other potential jurors, often understand that they must say they will consider only the evidence presented, a venue change motion at that point is “about as valuable as a warm cup of spit,” Daniel testified.

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