Murder Trial Delayed Because Of Courtroom Ceiling Leaks - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/18/06-Tyler

Murder Trial Delayed Because Of Courtroom Ceiling Leaks

Judge Cynthia Kent had to cover her desk with garbage bags to protect her computer and court documents. Judge Cynthia Kent had to cover her desk with garbage bags to protect her computer and court documents.

The trial of a Tyler man charged with capital murder was delayed and has now moved to another courtroom because of a leaky roof. Clifton Lamar Williams, 23, is accused of stabbing Cecelia Schneider, 93, to death last year. Prosecutors say Williams stole Schneider's car and purse, and then set her house on fire in July 2005. If convicted, Williams faces life in prison or the death penalty.

114th District Court Judge Cynthia Kent says when she found out this morning the leak would delay the Williams trial, she was "frustrated and upset." She told KLTV 7 News the situation would not have taken place if Smith County commissioners would have acted sooner to replace the roof. "It seems like there's a lack of planning, a lack of real understanding and perhaps a real lack of competence about dealing with problems that really need to be addressed," said Kent.

It was at 7:00 a.m. when Judge Kent received a call from her bailiff, telling her there was a leak in the roof. Smith County officials told us a contractor hired by county commissioners did not seal a seam on Friday. With yesterday's rain, the judge's ceiling began to leak. "We've got tiles falling down where the jury would be seated. We've got water leaking down onto my computer and my equipment with all of the papers in the bench, where the court reporter's expensive equipment is in. We have tiles falling down onto the council's table and we have a leak out in the court," said Kent.

Judge Kent said the roof above her courtroom has had a leak for more than a year. She says commissioners were aware of the problem, but they did not do anything until recently. "It's an entire problem with Smith County government not being able to plan ahead to get people to do the job right and that's a leadership issue," said Kent.

Smith County Commissioner Joann Fleming says the court has been working on courthouse repairs since February of last year. But, she says it was the council of judges who delayed the process by objecting to some of the modifications the commissioners came up with. "The commissioners court, those repairs were impacted by the time it took to decide on the remodel of the courthouse. So, the people of this county can be assured that contract will be taken care of," said Fleming.

The seam was sealed this morning, but there's no telling how much longer the water will continue to pour through the roof.   Smith County's physical plant director told us the roof replacement should be completed by October 16th.

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.  ortega@kltv.com

    

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