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EL PASO — A Texas judge wants to wait and see if the federal government will seek the death penalty against the alleged shooter in the 2019 racist massacre at a local Walmart before weighing a trial on state charges.
More than three years after 23 people were killed while shopping, State District Judge Sam Medrano said Tuesday it was more appropriate to wait until January, when the Federal prosecutors should decide whether they will seek to execute the accused abuser, before they make any decisions. on how to proceed with the Texas capital murder case.
“Depending on the outcome of the federal government’s decision, we would be in a better position to determine whether any scheduling orders, or an interim trial or even a permanent trial date should be made on the state side,” Medrano said of the bench. Tuesday during a hearing on the status of the state’s case against the alleged shooter.
In addition to being charged with a capital murder charge in Texas, in which state prosecutors have said they will seek death, Patrick Crusius is also charged with 90 federal crimes, including 45 hate crimes. A federal judge has set an interim trial date for those charges in January 2024.
The case of the state, on the other hand, is slowing down. But it has been filled with drama, which many in the legal community fear will weaken the high-profile death penalty case. Such cases by design have an extensive appeal process.
Medrano’s decision to wait was announced minutes after state prosecutors said they needed more time to respond to allegations filed in court last week that the district attorney’s office of El Paso was involved in impersonating and intimidating relatives of Walmart shooting victims in an attempt to remove Medrano. of the case.
Medrano and Yvonne Rosales, the district attorney-elect, argued in court about what Medrano called Rosales’ “grandstanding” and what the prosecutor deemed judicial bias against her, in part. because she is a woman.
Since Rosales took office last year, she has spent much of her time fending off scandals and accusations of incompetence and misconduct, culminating in an ongoing court battle to remove her before expiration. of his mandate in 2024.
Rosales has been on the stand as hundreds of criminal cases have been thrown out by judges after his office failed to get charges filed within six months. And she watched a murder defendant be released from jail because his office vindictively pushed for the death penalty after prosecutors were caught off guard for the trial.
In the Walmart charge, Medrano chastised her during a court hearing in July after telling media that she hoped for a trial date next summer, before the federal trial, without indicating that prosecutors had made progress in the case.
Rosales then pushed back unsuccessfully seeking to have Medrano thrown out of the case, saying she had “never been treated with such bias or antagonism”.
A new report filed in court last week claims a local judge working with Rosales was behind mysterious emails sentencing Medrano, allegedly written by the family of a victim of the Walmart shooting. The family later told a court-appointed attorney that City Court Judge Roger Rodriguez, of the Village of Vinton in El Paso County, had “continually persecuted” the family while claiming he was acting on behalf of the prosecution, according to the report.
Audio transcripts of conversations the family recorded with Rodriguez reveal that the family said Rodriguez and his wife sent one of the emails from the victim’s relative’s phone without the family reading it first. Affidavits filed with the report say the family member was threatened by Rodriguez. Rodriguez did not respond to multiple requests to discuss the allegations.
Rosales’ office countered the allegations in a filing Tuesday morning, saying the family had previously asked for help filing a complaint about Medrano’s behavior toward Rosales and wanted him removed from the case.
The court appointed a lawyer to represent the family based on the emails’ possible violation of his gag order, issued in July after Rosales gave the media a hopeful trial date. The emails were to be the focus of Tuesday’s hearing, but just after midnight the district attorney’s office filed a motion to stay proceedings on the matter.
Medrano gave the state 45 days to more fully respond to the possibly criminal allegations, which were also sent to the FBI, according to the report.
Rosales did not appear at Tuesday’s status hearing, his office instead being represented by Curtis Cox, one of his top assistant district attorneys who led the murder case that was dismissed for “rigor of the pursuit”.
Disclosure: Walmart Stores Inc.financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a suit list here.