“Personal animus” against District Attorney Yvonne Rosales should disqualify 409th District Judge Sam Medrano Jr. from overseeing the Aug. 3, 2019, mass murder case, according to documents filed Friday by the District Attorney’s Office in the case. 

In a 57-page document, Assistant District Attorney Curtis Cox wrote that a July 1 status conference displayed Medrano’s motivations to “embarrass and demean” Rosales. An example, Cox said, was Medrano asking Rosales questions about the progress of the case, even though the former trial attorney John Briggs, who was assigned to the case, was present. 

Cox also noted that Medrano did not talk to the attorneys privately in his office, but in front of reporters in the courtroom.

“It is a reasonable inference from these events that Judge Medrano’s intention was not to actually gather information, but was instead, to embarrass DA Rosales in front of the members of the media who had been allowed to assemble in the jury box,” Cox wrote. 

Medrano issued a gag order to attorneys, witnesses who provided testimony and law enforcement in the case on July 1. In the motion, Cox said Medrano was tied to the subpoenas issued by defense attorney Justin Underwood issued earlier this week for Rosales, Briggs and El Paso lawyer Roger Rodriguez asking them to appear on Sept. 13 for a status hearing. 

Through a different motion, the DA’s office asked Medrano to quash the subpoenas on Thursday, saying Underwood cannot compel anyone to testify in the case. The judge has not ruled on the motion to quash the subpoenas.

Cox said Medrano “himself set in motion that extrajudicial investigation” into the DA’s office when he appointed Underwood to represent Alexander Gerhard Hoffmann Roth’s family. Hoffmann Roth, 66, was one of the 23 people killed in the shooting. 

It is unclear what will happen to the status hearing set for next week. 

The DA’s office also filed a series of separate motions on Thursday and Friday.

One requested that a trial date be set in the state’s case; the other raised the possibility of having accused gunman Patrick Crusius at future hearings. The defendant hasn’t appeared in Medrano’s court since his arraignment in October 2019 because he waived his right to be present. 

Friday’s filing raised “potential Sixth Amendment issues,” which include the right to a speedy trial, the right to an attorney and the right to face witnesses in a trial. 

The DA’s office requested “any further hearings of any type” be held only after Crucius’ “personal physical presence” is secured. 

“It would seem imperative that the defendant be present during all hearings, especially since the State of Texas is actively seeking the death penalty, while the United States of America has not yet decided to do so,” Cox wrote. 

Last week, U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama ordered attorney’s in the separate federal case to submit deadlines for a meeting to determine if the federal government will seek the death penalty in the case. Crusius is scheduled for a January 2024 trial in the federal case. 

Crusius remains in federal custody. The U.S. Marshals Service does not provide locations of people in custody to the public, so it is unclear if there are any travel hurdles to Crusius attending hearings. 

Defense attorney Joe Spencer said he could not comment due to the gag order issued July 1. The District Attorney’s Office, which also is subject to the gage order, did not respond to a request for comment.

Danielle Prokop is a climate change and environment reporter with El Paso Matters. She’s covered climate, local government and community at the Scottsbluff Star-Herald in Nebraska and the Santa Fe New...