Ogg refutes charges of slur in capital murder case

District attorney Kim Ogg left a courtroom on Thursday after making allegations that her office was trying to influence coverage of Alex Guajardo, who was charged in 2019 with the murder of his pregnant wife’s death, and whether there is enough evidence to move his trial to a move to another county in Texas.

Judge Amy Martin, who lost her Democratic primary bid, is not expected to make a decision on the motion in Guajardo’s case until mid-November. By then, voters will likely have decided on her replacement.

“I’m in a difficult position to make a statement on an issue that changes with time and circumstances,” said Martin. “The biggest change will be in (about) 90 days, with a new presiding judge.”

Ogg’s testimony — which ranged from sparring with the defense attorney to answering the judge’s own curiosities — took two days in the 263rd District Court and sparked interest from dozens of onlookers, mostly criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors who drifted in the morning of their own court schedules to view the proceedings.

Several court subpoenas have subpoenaed Ogg and other members of her office to answer questions about Guajardo’s case during the motion to change location — a feat defense attorneys rarely attempt and judges rarely approve in Harris County because of the large population to choose a jury from.

Guajardo was after cashless bonds following multiple felony charges at the time his wife, Caitlynne Guajardo, was stabbed to death. The horrifying details in the accusation led law enforcement and crime victim advocates to denounce felony bail practices. Prosecutors argued that media coverage in the Guajardo case waned after the initial arrest and that more murders have been committed since then to keep the prosecutor’s office focused on other issues, such as court backlogs.

One question begged Ogg to say whether she believed Guajardo’s case reflected problems with Harris County’s bail practices.

“This case was used as an example of a felony bail reform that wasn’t implemented in a way that the original O’Donnell agreement was supposed to be structured,” Ogg said, reflecting on the amicus brief her office had filed as a attempt to influence a federal government. court decision on the reforms. The decision ultimately led to criminal offense bail practices being deemed unconstitutional.

A resulting settlement in 2019 led to the O’Donnell consent decree to change the practices that unfairly imprison low-income people charged with petty crimes.

The amicus letter aimed at opposing the reforms was criticized in court during the attempt to move Guajardo’s trial over possible misrepresentation. The document highlights four cases involving defendants, including Guajardo, who received new charges while on bail for a felony.

Defense attorney Justin Keiter said Ogg’s briefing leaves a false impression that Guajardo has received a general order confirmation for one of the felony offenses even while the capital murder charge was pending. In reality, Guajardo would not have been able to leave the Harris County jail since the death penalty left him without bail for more than a month. The general order bond in question was revoked by Judge Shannon Baldwin in Criminal Court of Law No. 4 in exchange for a $7,500 security deposit – which requires a cash deposit.

Baldwin appeared in Judge Martin’s court, and moments later in a witness room, preparing to testify on Guajardo’s case, but she was never called on the witness stand.

Ogg testified that she did not write the assignment, but she did approve and sign it.

“It looks correct, but I haven’t looked at these documents until today,” she said, identifying retired attorney Scott Durfee, who at one point served as her legal counsel, as the author.

The discussion over amicus briefs continued when emails revealed that Durfee had contacted Andy Kahan, a Crime Stoppers Victims Coordinator, about submitting their own amicus brief about the bail settlement. He attached a copy of the prosecutor’s office to give Kahan “an idea of ​​what is and what is to come”.

The emails, Keiter claimed, appeared to indicate that Ogg’s office was collaborating with Crime Stoppers amid the legal battle over bail reform. Ogg denied any such partnership, describing the increasingly controversial nonprofit as “primarily a crime tips hotline.” The group has come under fire from judges and criminal justice reform proponents for a partisan approach to discussing crime in Houston.

Emails implicating Kahan continued to be used as evidence, including a preliminary list of 117 defendants he said were collaborating on charges of murdering others while on bail.

Ogg testified that Kahan sent the list to her personal email and then forwarded it to her work account to comply with open records laws. deaths beyond the jury’s plea or judgment. Guajardo is on the list.

“I am frustrated that no one is disgusted by the idea that we are listing suspects here who have done nothing but get arrested,” Martin said.

Assistant District Attorney Mary McFaden said the list was prepared to show that Guajardo was not singled out and that others were on bail at the time of the alleged crime.

The testimony began Wednesday with questions about how Ogg’s spokesperson is handling communications related to pending criminal cases. During his hours-long testimony, communications director Dane Schiller identified himself as the anonymous “DudeGoggles” commentator on Chronicle news reports. A review of those comments found that he referred to former President Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and “some judges” as clowns.

Keiter asked Ogg if she was aware of Schiller’s online activities and if he could make those comments during work hours.

“I just don’t know enough what you’re talking about,” Ogg said. “Dane Schiller used to work for the Chronicle and has a relationship with Chronicle reporters. He communicates with the press.”

Prosecutors tried to submit a Chronicle report as evidence, but the judge rejected their request.

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