WACO, Texas – The first trial over a Central Texas gunfight involving rival motorcycle gangs that left nine people dead, 20 others hurt and more than 150 bikers charged is now set for April, 23 months after the 2015 shootout.
Several charged in the gunfire at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco have been seeking a speedy trial.
"In complex cases, it's not uncommon for the trial to occur 18 months to two years after the alleged incident occurred," 54th District Judge Matt Johnson, who will preside over some of the trials, told the Waco Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/2hZ5by3 ).
"It's not like we had a shortage of cases before Twin Peaks came along," 19th District Judge Ralph Strother, who also will handle some of the trials, said. "It's just the vagaries of the system, the complexity of the cases and the sheer volume that is present in the criminal justice system."
Strother is scheduled to get the first case, set for April 17. The next one follows in June, with seven cases then alternating between Strother and Johnson each month.
Court records show the seven bikers with tentative trial dates are either Bandidos or Cossacks, motorcycle clubs the state considers to be gangs that had gathered for a meeting.
The first to stand trial likely will be Christopher Jacob Carrizal, his father, Christopher Julian Carrizal, or Jerry Edward Pierson, all Bandidos from Dallas.
McLennan County prosecutors have said that first case is likely to take about two weeks.
Besides pushing for speedy trials and dismissal of charges, attorneys for some of the 155 indicted bikers unsuccessfully have sought a change of venue and have tried to disqualify District Attorney Abel Reyna from handling the cases.
A grand jury in September declined to recommend charges for three Waco police officers who shot bikers during May 2015 gunfight. Prosecutors had asked the grand jury whether the shootings were justified after the officers had been cleared by an internal police investigation.
Ballistics reports seen by The Associated Press show that four of the people killed were struck by the same caliber of rifle round fired by Waco police, and that two of them were struck only by that kind of rifle. Police and the district attorney's office have defended the officers' use of force, saying bikers had also opened fire on police.
The bikers were indicted on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity.
Information from: Waco Tribune-Herald, http://www.wacotrib.com