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Judge Knize removed from presiding over local homicide case

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County prosecutor asks for review of judge's recusal
WAXAHACHIE - Ellis County District Judge Gene Knize was recused from presiding over a local negligent homicide case after a Dallas attorney asked for his removal last week, but the County Attorney's Office has asked for Knize to be reinstated.

The attorneys for the truck driver facing criminally negligent homicide charges asked for the recusal of Knize during a hearing on Thursday, Feb. 22.

The defendant's attorney, Dallas lawyer David Finn said Knize threatened him and acted unprofessional during a previous jury selection.

According to reports from the Dallas Morning News, Finn said he hadn't planned to pursue a recusal of the judge until Knize unexpectantly dismissed the jury before trial. On Friday, Feb. 23, Judge Bill Coker of Dallas issued a one-page ruling, which did not include an explanation, dismissing Knize from the trial. Prosecutors have since called for reconsideration of Coker's ruling. In the motion by Ellis County Assistant District Attorney Don Maxfield, the prosecutor contended the allegation Knize threatened a defense attorney was not a good enough reason for dismissing the 40th District Judge.

Finn and Waxahachie attorney Mark Griffith were defending James Leon Williams, 56, who was charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide stemming from a June 2005 accident in which James R. Nation and Debra Carder lost their lives. The jury originally selected for the trial was believed to be beneficial to the defense, according to Finn, and could have offered Williams a fair chance at a not guilty decision. The prosecutors said if the judge had threatened the defense attorney, it was still not evidence Knize would not make fair and impartial rulings.

In the original hearing before Coker, several jurors said because of the attitude of Knize toward Finn, they did not believe Williams would get a fair trial with Finn being his attorney. Maxwell contended the jurors statements showed the dismissal of the jury was the right decision on the part of Knize.

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