TYLER, TX (KLTV) - James Calvert was back in court Thursday for a routine hearing leading up to his capital murder trial.
Calvert presented a wide varsity of motions to the court. These motions included a request for photographs of evidence collected from Calvert's possession such as a red and white target, a personal safe and other items.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham handed over copies of the requested photos on CDs to Calvert and his standby counsel. Calvert is representing himself, but two attorneys remain present in at each hearing in case they're needed. Each individual CD had to be removed from its plastic case and wrapped in a piece of paper to protect the CDs from getting scratched, while still not allowing Calvert to have access to the hard plastic.
Calvert again raised concerns about the Smith County Jail law library not being adequate for his needs. Calvert described the law library as a "pantry filled with books." Calvert said the law library has criminal code books from 2006 and is not updated.
"My needs are a little bit more advanced now than the basics," explained Calvert.
Calvert estimated that 90% of the books in the law library pertain to federal law. He said he needed new books to make sure his arguments were valid and will hold up in court. Calvert also requested a law dictionary. He told the court he's often having to ask friends, typically "older ladies," to look information up on the internet for him.
"They're not very law-savvy, though they are diligent," explained Calvert. "I am suffering actual injury by not being able to further my defense."
Calvert asked the court to have a third party evaluate the library.
Bingham said its not the court's responsibility to appoint someone to investigate the content of the law library.
"For someone as smart as the defendant claims to be, he should know that some things won't be available to him if he chooses to represent himself from jail," said Bingham.
Bingham added he's not even sure if there are any laws or rules that say inmates are entitled to a law library.
Calvert said he didn't know if he's specifically entitled to a law library, but said cases have sent precedents that imply he should have access of some kind.
Even though past cases actually determined that a self-representing Capital Murder defendants are not entitled to law libraries, Calvert argued he should be. He said he is only representing himself because he had no other choice.
Judge Jack Skeen, Jr., said Calvert invoked his voluntary right to represent himself and that a defendant cannot pick and choose their attorneys when they are court-appointed and are well qualified attorneys.
One of the standby attorneys, Jeff Haas, told the court he would make his own capital murder defense documents available to Calvert.
Calvert requested and was granted one more hour of access, each day, to the laptop the county had to purchase for his trial preparation. Calvert now gets access to the computer 25 hours a week (5 hours per day). He also requested and was granted permission to have his laptop and printer in the courtroom for future hearings.
Calvert asked the court to deny the DA's office access to any of his recorded jail calls starting in February. Calvert said he couldn't talk with experts, witnesses or investigators candidly because he feared the prosecutors would get the tapes and learn the details of his defense. Bingham referenced a series of court cases that ruled defendants do not have a right to privacy in jail. Bingham said his office is happy not to listen to private phone calls between Calvert and investigators about his case. The court said Calvert must submit specific dates and times for phone calls to be considered private and the court would listen to them privately to make sure he was following the rules. Calvert argued for a blanket rule making all calls private but it was denied.
"I am not the defendant," said Calvert. "Yes, you are," said Judge Skeen. Calvert went on to explain that he is now both a defendant but also an attorney and should be given privacy.
Calvert requested copies of the information seized on his hard drives after this arrest. Bingham said some of the stuff on Calvert's computers is "weird." Bingham says there are names and addresses of attorneys, photos of the attorney's wives and kids in swimsuits, mirror images of peoples' cell phone contents as well as lists of names of Tyler police officers. Bingham said he doesn't know if those people even know Calvert or know he has all of this information on them. Calvert explained he was a forensic computer analyst and managed 10 law firms' emails for a living before he was arrested.
The court decided Calvert could review the contents of his hard drive with his standby counsel and request what we would like a copy of. As long as the requests are not considered contraband, the DA's office said they'd have no problem making copies and giving Calvert the requested information. Then Calvert decided he didn't want to do that and would instead file a motion to suppress to get all of his hard drives returned to his mother because Calvert claimed his hard drives were seized with an improper search warrant. Calvert is confident the motion to suppress will be ruled in his favor. After another half hour of discussion, Calvert agreed to review the documents with the DA and standby counsel to try and get the issue resolved.
The next pretrial hearing is tentatively scheduled for August 15.