Yesterday’s hearing on a motion by Jonesboro mayor Leslie Thompson’s defense attorney Louis Scott began with hearings on several other motions that had been filed in the interim.
First up, a defense motion for a continuance.
Scott said that he needed more time to gather evidence of Teat’s alleged animosity toward Thompson and also needed more time to review the discovery material turned over from the prosecutor.
Lea Hall, Special Assistant District Attorney for the Second Judicial District Attorney argued that whenever “serious allegations” are made in a motion, the mover should make sure of his facts with “reasonable specificity” prior to the filing, instead of trying to assemble evidence after making the charges.
Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) District Chief Judge Jenifer Clason noted that immediately after the recusal motion was filed, the two attorneys and she conferred via phone and that she took “a lot” of notes of that conversation.
Clason said the 3/28 hearing date was agreed to by all the parties, in view of everyone’s schedule for April and May. She also agreed with Hall’s argument that Scott should have assembled his facts prior to filing the recusal motion.
With that, Clason denied the motion for delay.
Next up, the issue of “judge shopping” by the DA was argued.
Scott called as a witness Jackson Parish Clerk of Court Deputy Dusty Hampton, and questioned him as to the procedure whereby judges were selected for trials.
Hampton said the procedure was contained in an established rule that periodically rotates the three judges among the three parishes in the 2nd JD. That way, no one judge heard cases that were exclusive to his/her parish. The month that the alleged crime took place determines what judge hears a particular case, Hampton said.
See here the procedure.
In his cross-examination, Hall asked Hampton if the procedure for selecting the judge for this case differed from any others, to which he replied “absolutely not.”
In ruling against Scott, Clason noted that the procedure by which judges in the 2nd JD are assigned is in full compliance with State v Simpson, the applicable case law for judge selection procedures.
Also denied by Clason were two subpoenas for testimony requested by Scott, one for Assistant District Attorney Douglas Stokes, and one for Division B Judge Jimmy Teat. Stokes also serves as the town’s legal adviser.
Hall had moved that both be quashed because the subpoenas did not state a purpose for the request, nor did they list required information with particularity.
After a short break around Noon, the actual recusal matter was argued.
Several large files were introduced into evidence, most of which concerned the two civil trials involving the town and mayor, Essmeier v Jonesboro and State v Jonesboro, both presided over by Teat.
The prosecution stipulated (agreed to) to the authenticity of the documents, but not any conclusions drawn from them.
Scott then called Town Clerk David Dill to the stand.
Scott questioned Dill extensively on office procedures and the history of the two civil cases. Scott spent a significant amount of time asking about the town’s former Fiscal Administrator Bill Ryder and his interaction with Judge Teat. He asked about any meetings between the two, and what reports Ryder submitted to Teat.
Also, Scott wanted to know what access Ryder had to the town’s records and computer files. The direction of the questioning seemed to indicate an effort to establish some type of nefarious conspiracy.
Hall had no cross-examination.
The only witness called by Hall was Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) investigator Johnny Horton.
Horton testified to the evidence gathering procedures used during the investigation.
Notable during this part of the hearing was the interaction between Scott and Thompson. When the judge asked Scott if he had any more witnesses, he turned to Thompson as if to seek guidance. Thompson shook his head, and then Scott told the judge he had no more witnesses.
In denying the motion for recusal, Clason said that “no evidence was offered” that Teat held a personal animosity toward Thompson. As to the allegation that Teat’s involvement in the civil cases would prevent a fair trial, Clason cited several court cases where judges in civil cases also heard criminal cases involving the same parities.
Scott advised the court that he would be filing writs to the Court of Appeals, Second Circuit promptly in all of yesterday’s rulings.
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