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Texas judge denies State’s motion to recuse judge from Walmart shooter case

EL PASO, Texas -- Judge Sid Harle denied the State's motion to recuse Judge Sam Medrano from the Walmart shooter case during a hearing on Tuesday.

Judge Harle said none of the arguments made in the hearing met the high threshold for a recusal in this case.

The El Paso district attorney's office filed to have Judge Medrano removed from the case because they claim he has a personal involvement in the case and his "impartiality might be reasonably questioned," according to a response written by the state in the case.

District Attorney Yvonne Rosales was called as a witness in the hearing. Rosales talked about a July 1 status hearing where Judge Medrano issued a gag order on the case.

"I have never been treated with such bias or antagonism in my entire 20 years," Rosales said about the judge's behavior during that hearing.

Former assistant district attorney and lead prosecutor of the Walmart shooting case, John Briggs, took the stand in Tuesday's hearing and provided more details on what has been happening in this case behind closed doors.

Briggs said he does not believe Judge Medrano acted inappropriately during the July 1 hearing where the gag order was issued. He did explain what happened immediately after the hearing, though.

Briggs said they brought all the family members of the victims into the D.A. office to have a meeting about what just happened. Briggs said the families were upset and he did his best to answer questions and concerns. Once he was done talking, Briggs said Roger Rodriguez, a municipal judge in Vinton, got in front of the crowd and whipped them into a frenzy.

Briggs claims Rodriguez told the families, "We are going to get that judge recused."

Rodriguez has been mentioned in this case before. He was one of three people that were subpoenaed by attorney Justin Underwood. The hearing was postponed because of the judge recusal motion.

Rosales was asked about Rodriguez during her testimony. She says he is not an employee of her office, nor is he connected to the Walmart case, although she claims he did help obtain grant money to prosecute the case. She did add that he was an outside council for a federal case she and other district attorneys in Texas are involved in.

In his testimony, Briggs said he believes Rodriguez was the author of an email that was sent to ABC-7 and other media outlets. The letter said one of ABC-7's guests, former assistant district attorney Amanda Enriquez, violated the gag order by talking about the case in a story that aired on the third anniversary of the shooting. ABC-7 was never able to fully confirm who wrote the letter, but it came from the email address of a family member of one of the shooting victims.

Briggs said he shared that belief in the office and was fired a few days after. Rosales said during her testimony that Briggs was fired because of a "lack of performance."

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

Dylan McKim

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