The fate of a man who has been sentenced to life in prison, and who has already served about four years, took a backseat Thursday to accusations that lawyers involved in the case had read text messages on the presiding judge’s cell phone.
“State District Judge Angelica Hernandez ordered prosecutor Doug Mann and defense attorney Eric Perkins to complete several hours of ethics courses before they return to her courtroom,” Michelle Villarreal of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.
Hernandez charged that Mann picked up her cell phone while she was out of the room and shared the texts he read on it with Perkins.
The lawyers deny the accusations, and the district attorney’s office plans to take legal action. Perkins said the judge was out of the room, her phone beeped, Mann mistook the judge’s phone for his, picked it up and a text message appeared on the screen. The court manager walked in at that moment.
The judge said during the hearing that she didn’t accept the lawyers’ explanation. She recused herself from the rest of the proceedings.
Hernandez promised the man on trial, Carlos Gonzales, 27, that she would expedite the process.
“I realize you’ve been in jail a long time, and I feel bad,” she said.
Convicted of capital murder in 2008, Gonzales was sentenced to life in prison. But an appeals court overturned the ruling in February 2010 and ordered a new trial.
Contact Mike Cronin at email@example.com or 713-228-2850.
Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.
Photo of Texts by flickr user gcbb, used via a Creative Commons license.