Thought You Guys may be interested in the latest 'news"..........
We Really Did Know this was a Very Possible Outcome of Us Bombarding the Judge. (well........I THOUGHT it after we did it, but we HAD to write those letters!!)
Hannibal, MO —
http://www.hannibal.net/features/x21007 ... ge-of-bias
A Hannibal murder suspect claims letters from the victims’ families so profoundly influenced a judge that a fair trial is impossible unless another magistrate is appointed, court documents show.
Thirty-three-year-old Manuel G. Cazares is asking St. Charles County Circuit Judge Ted House to recuse himself.
House on Thursday said he would consider the request. A decision could be issued by next week.
Cazares, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action in the Feb. 28, 2009, stabbing deaths of 27-year-old Amanda R. Thomas and 25-year-old C. Patrick Epley.
The root of Cazares’ request Thursday dates to April 6, when his attorney, public defender Todd Schulze, and Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Redington met with House to discuss a plea bargain.
The agreement called for Cazares to plead guilty in exchange for being sentenced to no more than 30 years in prison.
If convicted by a jury of all the charges he faces, Cazares could get 90 years behind bars.
Family members of Thomas and Epley wrote letters to House to request that he reject the plea bargain. House did so, calling the 30-year sentence “too lenient.”
Cazares’ motion for a new judge claims House’s decision “amounts to a tacit admission that the judge read the materials and used them as a basis for refuting any plea agreement,” court documents show.
Cazares says that the law requires “fundamental fairness” from House.
“Fundamental fairness has been violated in this case,” the motion reads. “Based upon Judge House’s statements in chambers (on April 6) inappropriate contact occurred between family members of the deceased individuals and the court.”
The motion went on to say that “such inappropriate correspondence occurred prior to the presiding trial judge being advised of the terms of the (plea) agreement. Prior contact has caused the current judge to prejudge the case.”
The alleged contact “creates a conflict of interest,” the documents claim.
“By allowing this case to be heard under the current trial judge, the Court will violate Defendant’s rights to due process and a fair and impartial jury” guaranteed by the Constitution, the motion reads.
House’s ruling Thursday followed a 70-minute closed-door meeting in chambers between the judge, Schulze and Kevin Zoellner, a special prosecutor from the Missouri Attorney General’s office who was appointed at the request of Redington.
When he returned to the bench, House said nothing except that he would take Cazares’ request under advisement. Both Schulze and Zoellner declined to comment after the hearing.
Family members also declined to discuss the case at the request of prosecutors.
Cazares was in the building, but did not appear in House’s courtroom, as he did in April.
Despite the change of judge request, Cazares’ trial still is set for Nov. 1 in St. Charles County, where the case was moved on a change of venue.
Police say Cazares, who fathered a child with Thomas, turned himself in a few hours after the killings.
He reportedly directed investigators to the bodies of Thomas and Epley, who were found in a bedroom at Thomas' Hannibal apartment. Epley was a friend of Thomas' from high school.
During earlier testimony in the case, police reported Cazares confessed to the crime and said that jealousy was his motive. Investigators said Cazares was in America illegally.
Authorities said Cazares and Thomas met in Hannibal. The suspect told them the two-year relationship ended in fall 2008, but that he and Thomas kept in periodic contact because of their child.
Cazares had several previous run-ins with the law, but always provided what appeared to be legitimate identification to authorities. The documents later proved to be false.
Thomas had sought three orders of protection against Cazares, but did not enforce the first two. She died before a hearing could be held on the third.
Cazares is in the Marion County Jail on $1 million cash-only bond.
Copyright 2010 Hannibal Courier-Post. Some rights reserved