Nico LaHood at a Wednesday press conference
On Tuesday, a judge ruled in favor of Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood in a murder case that's offered a revealing look at how the DA operates in a courtroom.
By now, the ruling has little to do with the original purpose of the case — to rule whether or not Miguel Martinez, 29, shot and killed 33-year-old Laura Carter in 2015. Senior District Judge W.C. Kirkendall 's decision instead focuses on LaHood's legal conduct, calling his courtroom "rants" and behavior in the judge's chambers "uncalled for."
According to defense attorneys Mark Stevens, Joe D. Gonzales and Christian Henricksen, LaHood disclosed last minute that one of his office's staffers had a sexual relationship with one of the witnesses in the case — years before the alleged crime took place. They called for a mistrial, and LaHood, who helped try the case alongside assistant DA Jason Goss, met with the lawyers in the judge's chambers to discuss the next steps with District Judge Lori Valenzuela. That's when the three lawyers claim that LaHood threatened to "destroy" them and "shut down" their law practice if they pursued a mistrial on those grounds. Judge Valenzuela said she also heard LaHood make a threat in her chambers — and that she considered it official oppression (a Class A misdemeanor).
But despite the testimony of three lawyers and one judge, LaHood has denied under oath that he ever threatened the lawyers.
Regardless, the case ended in a mistrial in February, and in March, the defense lawyers filed a motion to dismiss charges against Martinez altogether. Which leads us to Judge Kirkendall's Tuesday ruling.
Kirkendall rejected the defense's request to dismiss the case, writing that the DA's office fairly disclosed information about its staffer's brief relationship with a witness, and since that relationship had nothing to do with the case itself, it hasn't changed the course of the trial. Specifically, Kirkendall wrote, the DA didn't "intentionally provoke or goad the defense requesting a mistrial."
Kirkendall did suggest that LaHood's "unprofessional and uncalled for 'rant'" against the defense may be "subject to sanctions in another tribunal."
"I am human, I admit that I lost my temper when responding to false and baseless accusations from the defense," said LaHood in a Wednesday press conference. "But I will not lay down to dishonest and unethical tactics used by anyone to get a killer back on our Bexar County streets. The time for antics is over, just prepare for trial."
La Hood won't answer any questions about the ruling until the case is closed.