Tensions rise during hearing in Twin Peaks shootout case

If the trial of the first Twin Peaks case lives up to the rancor and ill will exhibited between attorneys on both sides in recent pretrial hearings, the McLennan County courthouse could be in for a real donnybrook.

Tensions between prosecutor Michael Jarrett and defense attorney Casie Gotro continued to mount Monday during a three-hour pretrial hearing in Waco's 19th State District Court.

Judge Ralph Strother seemed more like a referee in a 15-round boxing match, as he repeatedly asked the attorneys to address him and not each other and cautioned Gotro to quit interrupting him. 

Gotro, of Houston, represents Jacob Carrizal, the 35-year-old president of the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos motorcycle gang. Gotro has pushed hard for Carrizal's day in court, while McLennan County prosecutors have made it clear that they want to try Carrizal first among the 155 bikers indicted in the shootout that left nine dead and dozens wounded.

Carrizal's trial is set for Sept. 11, with a jury panel of 600 summoned to report Aug. 25 to fill out questionnaires to aid in jury selection.  

Gotro and Jarrett have squared off during previous hearings, with Jarrett asking the judge on two occasions to order Gotro not to put her finger in Jarrett's face.

On Monday, the animus between the sparring attorneys grew the longer the hearing went.

"Judge, would you instruct Ms. Gotro how to act like a professional?" Jarrett asked at one point. 

"Could I ask the court to instruct Mr. Jarrett to grow some thicker skin," Gotro shot back.

At the end of the hearing, Gotro lodged a three-pronged objection to a request from prosecutors to take photos of a shirtless Carrizal to document his tattoos. While Gotro's objection continued, Carrizal interrupted and volunteered to submit to the photos.

After the hearing, Gotro complained that McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara ignored a subpoena to be at the hearing and that the judge denied her request to issue an order to make him appear. 

McNamara said Monday that he was aware of the subpoena, but sent Deputy Cody Blossman as his designee, which Gotro apparently was not aware of. 

Gotro also complained that responses to her subpoenas from the Department of Public Safety, Waco Police Department and the McLennan County Sheriff's Office for evidence taken after the May 17, 2015, shootout at Twin Peaks did not satisfy her requests. 

Jarrett assured the court that Gotro has been given reams and reams of evidence in the case, including another round of discovery delivered to her on Monday. Jarrett said prosecutors are in compliance with the Michael Morton Act, which requires them to turn over evidence in criminal cases to the defense and charged that Gotro merely was "playing games" with less than a month to go before trial. 

He asked the judge to get an assurance from Gotro that she would be ready to go on Sept. 11 and that she would not be seeking a postponement. Gotro said she will be ready, despite the mountain of evidence compiled in the case. 

Strother granted a defense request Monday to have the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas retest ballistic evidence from three Waco police rifles fired during the melee, but not before he clarified what Gotro is looking for and helped draft the order.

 

Jarrett objected that Gotro's subpoena for the crime lab was not properly submitted because it didn't specify what kinds of tests she wanted run. During the discussion, Gotro told Strother on at least four occasions that she is not a scientist but would check with a forensic expert for assistance.  

"I just want to know who killed (Daniel Raymond) Boyett, your honor," Gotro said, referring to the 44-year-old Waco man who was killed in the shootout.

Gotro said one projectile was fired by a Waco police officer, but the second, which is similar in size and caliber, could not be traced to one of the three rifles police fired that day.

It was Gotro's third request in recent months for additional testing on projectiles or fragments recovered from Boyett, who was shot twice in the head.

Gotro also accused DPS officials of not complying with her subpoenas, including one for information about a "covert camera" reportedly used by the DPS that day. 

She also accused prosecutors of "obstructing" her by fighting her on many of her discovery requests.

"I am familiar with how a trial by ambush works, your honor, and I prefer to be prepared before I go to trial," Gotro said.

"If she wants to make this case about some grand conspiracy, then she will have the opportunity to do that at trial," Jarrett said. "But she has all the information she is requesting."   

Carrizal is charged with one count of directing activities of a criminal street gang, one count of engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of murder and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of aggravated assault.

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TOMMY WITHERSPOON
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