Accused murderer to court: 'Smith County justice, baby!'

Published: Jun. 19, 2014 at 9:04 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM CDT
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - On Thursday, a Tyler man was in court for a hearing in preparation for his capital murder trial. James Calvert is accused of killing his ex-wife and kidnapping their son in 2012. He's being held in the Smith County Jail on a $25 million bond.

The following is a blow-by-blow recount of Calvert's court appearance on Thursday:

The hearing begins with Calvert explaining to the court which motions he would like to file.

Calvert says he has suspicions that something was done improperly, leading to his quick indictment. Calvert says he was indicted five days after his arrest. Calvert says, according to his research, indictments usually take closer to 90 days.

Calvert says he is suspicious and is looking for public information regarding the grand jury process so he can research and pursue accusations.

Calvert says he wants the name of the bailiff who was working grand jury the day he was indicted, names of grand jury commissioners, names of grand jurors and names of witnesses who testified in his grand jury hearing.

Calvert says he's looking for this information so he can make sure, for example, a grand jury commissioner is not related to the judge. Judge Jack Skeen Junior says the information Calvert has asked for is on record with the district clerk and is available to him.

Calvert says he believes there may be a bias at play in his indictment and he's working to uncover it.

Calvert is asking the State for this grand jury information. District attorney Matt Bingham says he will not release the names of the grand jurors who indicted Calvert or the witnesses who testified in his case unless the court orders the DA's Office to. Bingham says grand jury is protected under the law.

Bingham tells the court Calvert has basically stood up and said, "a big bunch of nothing." Bingham says Calvert has made no showing of good cause for seeking these documents. Bingham says if a man is accused of shooting and killing his wife, taking their son and then wrecks out with the child and the murder weapon in the car, then the State's priority will be to indict that case.

Calvert says he objects to the State bringing up details of the case that are not on the record and are not relevant to this hearing. Calvert says he believes the State has the records he is requesting and that they're public.

Judge Skeen asks the DA's Office to release the names of the witnesses who testified. Judge Skeen also says he will have the district clerk's office release names of grand jury members and grand jury commissioners to Calvert as long as there is no statutory prohibition making that information private.

Judge Skeen says he is releasing these documents to Calvert because they would be accessible to him if he were not in jail.

Bingham releases names of the witnesses to Calvert verbally. He quickly says, "Ken Gardner, Nathan Elliott and Brent Davis."

Judge Skeen says Calvert can not have access to information about other cases or numbers of grand jury cases that were taken up the day Calvert was indicted.

Calvert is also requesting transcripts of all pretrial hearings prior to February 2014. Judge Skeen says he will have that paperwork prepared for Calvert.

In Calvert's next motion Calvert takes up issues with information taken from seized cell phones, hard drives, etc. Bingham says if evidence has been collected from these items it will be shared with Calvert.

First assistant district attorney April Sikes says their expert has conducted forensic exams on very few items, perhaps just one, and the information from items that have been examined will be given to Calvert. Judge Skeen says, as forensic examinations are complete information will be provided to both parties. Sikes agrees that the information will be provided to Calvert as each forensic examination is complete.

Calvert stands up to express concerns that the forensic examinations are taking too long. Calvert says the evidence has been in the State's possession for more than a year and a half. Calvert says he wants to make sure he has all of the information from the forensic examination in plenty of time to be prepared for trial.

Calvert's next motion is related to photographic evidence that he is missing. Calvert says he is seeking photographs of the shooting target in the trunk of his vehicle that was seized.

The judge asks the state to provide Calvert with a photo of the target. The state says they'll need written consent from Calvert to re-enter his car to take photographs since they have already executed their search warrant on Calvert's car. Calvert says he does not believe the target is still in the trunk of the car. Calvert is convinced the target is in an evidence locker at the police department. Calvert will not give the State consent to re-enter the car. Calvert also is requesting photos of every key on his key ring, a clear photo of a federal firearms license, clear plastic containers containing miscellaneous paperwork, and a portable safe.

Bingham expresses concerns that Calvert is going to being requests like these to every pre trial hearing resulting in the constant sealing and unsealing of evidence.

Calvert says he is missing notes or photos or something. He says he isn't sure what he's missing but he thinks he's missing something and he wants the DA's office to check if he has it. The judge says he doesn't know how to ask the DA's office to look for something if Calvert doesn't know what he's looking for. Spectators in the courtroom been to chuckle.

Sikes says she will ask all detectives who worked on Calvert's case to double check and make sure they have not forgotten to hand over any digital or handwritten notes.

Calvert next starts explaining why he thinks the court should not have a deadline for filing pretrial motions. Calvert says he's filing motions as fast as he can. Judge Skeen says Calvert can ask for more time and extensions for filing his motions, but that the deadline will not be lifted. Judge Skeen says the deadlines are necessary to keep things moving along for both sides.

Judge Skeen says any motions filed between now and July 17th will be taken up on July 17. "Thank you, thanks great, Your Honor," says Calvert.

Calvert's next motion is about trial proceedings. Calvert's says, "it tends to scare people when I move around," so he'd like to make his arguments from the counsel table and not in front of the jury box. Calvert says he doesn't want jurors to see his ankle braces (shackles) because it could conflict with his presumption of innocence.

Calvert requests to wear a shock collar instead of a leg brace during the trial so that the jury doesn't have a bias against him because they can tell he's in custody. "So you are requesting to wear a shock collar?" Asks Judge Skeen. The judge says, for clarification, the shock collar is actually a shock belt. The judge tells Calvert, "if you wear the shock belt and we have to use it, it's going to be pretty obvious they you're in custody because you're going to be on the floor. It doesn't feel like a pin prick." Judge Skeen says he will make sure that Calvert's leg brace is well "oiled up," so the jurors don't hear it squeaking when he walks around.

Calvert's next motion is that the law library within the jail is not adequate. The judge asks Calvert if he has seen any other cases where a defendant representing himself has access to a law library. Calvert says no, the past cases he has reviewed indicate that pro se defendants do not need to have access to law libraries. Calvert also adds that the library would be helpful for other defendants. Calvert says he's speaking on behalf for all of the inmates in the Smith County Jail.

Calvert also tells the court he's missing "data that is extremely important" to his defense.

The state agrees to have their expert look for these documents. Under his breath, Calvert says, "he's useless," about the expert. Judge Skeen tells Calvert that sidebar comments will not be tolerated and that he is expected to behave like a lawyer when representing himself.

Calvert calls his former attorney, Jason Cassel to the stand. Calvert says Cassel has the database documents that he needs and he'll just get them from Cassel. The judge tells Calvert that the documents will come from the states expert and no one else. Calvert, the judge and Sikes are all taking at once over each other and the room becomes tense.

Sikes asks to offer more discovery (evidence) to Calvert but he refuses to sign paperwork stating he has received the evidence. Calvert tells the court he cannot sign anything because The State does not give him what he needs and he says they cannot be trusted. Deputies escort an angry Calvert out of the courtroom. Calvert walks out of the courtroom and shouts, "Smith County justice, baby!"

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