An out-of-town judge on Monday postponed a hearing to determine if 409th District Court Judge Sam Medrano Jr. can continue to preside over the 2019 Walmart mass shooting.

Judge Sid Harle, the presiding judge of the San Antonio-based 4th Administrative Judicial Region, granted a prosecutor’s request for a continuance after a short Zoom hearing. Harle, a former Bexar County district court judge, said the new hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. El Paso time on Sept. 27.

Harle said the continuance would allow prosecutors to secure any witness testimony, but he said the next hearing date is non-negotiable. 

“We’re going to finish it at one time,” Harle said. “We’re not going to piecemeal this. We’re going to start and we’re gonna go straight through.”

On Friday, Assistant District Attorney Curtis Cox requested that the hearing for recusal be held in-person at a later date to allow for translation of Mexican government documents that were going to be used as evidence. But Harle said the next hearing will be done on Zoom, with the public allowed to view it on YouTube.

409th District Judge Sam Medrano is presiding over the state trial of the man accused of murdering 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The El Paso District Attorney’s Office on Sept. 9 filed a 57-page motion seeking the removal of Medrano alleging “personal animus against DA (Yvonne) Rosales,” according to the recusal motion

In a motion filed Monday morning, the defense attorneys representing alleged shooter Patrick Crusius called the prosecutors’ objections to Medrano hearing the case a smokescreen to prevent “damaging evidence” from coming out at a Sept.13 hearing. 

That filing included information where a private attorney, Roger Rodriguez, told the families of victims to file complaints against Medrano for issuing a gag order at the July 1 hearing, while members of the El Paso District Attorney’s Office were present. Rodriguez has previously represented unspecified members of the DA’s office in a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission. 

That Sept. 13 hearing was delayed after the motion to recuse was filed.

Cox told Judge Harle that the defense’s allegations came as a “surprise,” and that he would need more time to prepare. 

“I have witnesses who can rebut their contentions in their … response to the motion to recuse, but I don’t have those lined up for today,” Cox said. 

Crusius faces 23 state capital murder charges and nearly 100 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death. His federal trial has been set for January 2024. A date for a state trial has not been set. 

This is a developing story.

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...