Subpoena against judge denied in pre-trial of man indicted in death of Smith County deputy
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A man indicted in a crash that killed a Smith County sheriff’s deputy in 2022 appeared in court Monday for his pre-trial hearing.
Daniel Nyabuto, 22, of Grand Prairie, is accused of intoxication manslaughter and aggravated assault in a crash that killed Smith County Sheriff’s Deputy Lorenzo Bustos. Bustos was conducting a traffic stop on July 29, 2022, when he was struck and killed by a vehicle that Nyabuto is accused of driving. Nyabuto was indicted for intoxication manslaughter on Oct. 13, 2022, and again for aggravated assault on Dec. 1, 2022. On Monday, Nyabuto appeared in Judge Kerry L. Russell’s court for pre-trial on both charges.
Defense began the hearing by presenting Nyabuto’s search warrant and affidavit as evidence. They then requested an inventory of Bustos’ vehicle, specifically of reflective gear to deter traffic and protect the officer.
The state said they will present a minimum of 10 expert witnesses in the trial, which is set to begin Dec. 4. The defense said they will be challenging at least one of these witnesses. The defense also presented a motion for discovery relating to forensic downloads, and the state said they have complied with the request. The state then objected to the discovery motion.
The defense asked for personnel or disciplinary records for Bustos, saying that he was not complying with sheriff’s office policy by walking in the lane while on the phone when struck by the vehicle. They also said he was not wearing a reflective vest and had minimal lighting. The defense said that they wanted these records to see Bustos’ training and whether he’d been taught not to park in traffic while conducting a stop.
Russell questioned the relevance of contributory negligence in these claims against Bustos and his training by the defense. He allowed briefing by the state and defense before approving the motion for discovery for the files on Bustos.
The defense then requested more records relating to cellphone data, which the state said they’ve already provided. The defense made a motion to suppress illegally seized evidence.
The defense filed a subpoena for Judge Taylor Heaton, which the state said they wished to disregard as they claimed the judge’s testimony is unnecessary. According to the state, no extreme circumstance has been shown to the court to prove that Heaton should testify. Russell called the subpoena of a judge a “bad precedent,” and did not allow the subpoena to proceed for the time being.
The trooper who filed an affidavit in a search conducted in the case was called as a witness. The trooper testified that Heaton swore him in, and said he did not lie in his filing of the affidavit. Russell ruled that the trooper was sworn in by Heaton after the warrant was filed. The defense said they have filed a complaint against the trooper to the investigator general’s office on the basis that the warrant filing was handled incorrectly.
Russell set aside two weeks for the trial proceedings. The defense predicted that they will finish withing three or four days before the punishment phase, if it comes to that. The trial was said to have the potential to run through early January of 2024.
Copyright 2023 KLTV. All rights reserved.