The Nueces County District Attorney’s Office has shown a pattern of turning over evidence at the last minute and sometimes withholding it all together, defense attorneys testified Wednesday.In addition to that case, "In June, then 105th District Judge Angelica Hernandez found prosecutors withheld evidence and acted in bad faith in a child endangerment case," the paper reported.
Attorneys for Trinity Ringelstein, who is serving a life sentence, argued prosecutors waited until the week before his capital murder trial to give them tapes containing more than 72 hours of phone conversations he had while in the Nueces County Jail.
Ringelstein was first arrested in 2012 on suspicion of fatally shooting Micah Seth Horn, 23, near a park in the 1000 block of Harbor Lights Drive. After a three-week trial, Ringelstein was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year.
The law requires prosecutors to hand over evidence in a timely manner.
During the daylong hearing his attorneys sought to prove prosecutors have delayed turning over key evidence in several other felony cases.
District Attorney Mark Skurka, who did not attend the hearing, disputed the claims in a statement to the Caller-Times.
“The District Attorney’s Office provides evidence to the defense as required by law. We strongly deny these allegations,” Skurka said.
The story also pointed to whistleblower litigation by "Eric Hillman, a former Nueces County prosecutor [who is] suing the county for wrongful termination. Hillman claims his bosses instructed him not to tell the defense team he found a witness who would help a man he was prosecuting." In addition, "three other defense attorneys sat in the courtroom gallery and were ready to testify Wednesday but weren’t called to the stand for time reasons."
It's hard to understand - aside from their general lameness and historical unwillingness to discipline prosecutors - how Mr. Hillman's allegations, or Judge Hernandez's ruling, in particular, wouldn't trigger a disciplinary review by the state bar against prosecutors in the office.
Defense lawyers lost the motion at the trial court level but simply exposing such stories to disinfecting sunlight has a salutary effect.
MORE: See additional background on the Hillman case.