Wood County DA may withdraw from new trial granted in double murder case

Published: Jul. 15, 2014 at 9:21 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2014 at 9:33 PM CDT
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WOOD COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The new trial for a Wood County man sentenced to life for a double murder will likely be assigned to a special prosecutor.

Jason Payne was sentenced in 2010 for shooting and killing both his wife and stepson in their Wood County home. Last year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his conviction and he was granted a new trial. The Wood County District Attorney's Office may now be stepping down from the case.

In a motion filed by Jason Payne’s defense attorney, he said Wood County District Attorney Jim Wheeler intends to recuse himself because Wheeler believes Wood County Sheriff Jim Brown may be called to testify for the defense.

In Texas, an attorney for the state can withdraw from a case for good cause with the court's approval. Although there is no clear definition of good cause, one reason may be because a member of the district attorney's staff might be called to testify in the case.

Before he was elected sheriff in January 2013, Brown served as an investigator for Payne’s defense team during his original trial. Brown did not testify during that trial.

In the motion, Payne’s defense attorney states he has no "present intention" to call Sheriff Brown as a witness. He goes on to state that if the district attorney's recusal is granted by the court, months could pass before a replacement is found and brought up to speed on the case, thus delaying Payne’s trial.

However, sources close to the investigation told KLTV 7 that Texas Assistant Attorney General Lisa Tanner will be assigned as a special prosecutor for the case. Tanner specializes in complex cases where local prosecutors must be recused or require additional expertise.

Jason Payne is still confined in the Wood County jail under a $500,000 bond which his defense attorney says Payne is unable to post.

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