Testimony via internet no longer needed in capital murder trial

July 26, 2013 at 2:26 a.m.
Updated July 27, 2013 at 2:27 a.m.

Prosecutors pulled the plug on new technology that would have allowed an injured woman to testify in a capital murder trial from some 2,000 miles away Friday.

The decision came after a recent doctor's note cleared the woman to fly to Victoria from Oregon, where she is being treated for a gunshot wound to the leg.

Allaceia Marie Stephney was set to testify via two-way, audio and video feed - a first for Victoria courtrooms - in the capital murder trial of Dedrick Roy Bonner, 19, and Donnell Deshaun Dilworth Jr., 23, both of Victoria.

The men are charged in the April 24, 2012, shooting death of Jerry James III, and the state says Stephney was hurt in the same shooting.

Stephney will now appear in person.

"I had to get it (the doctor's note) in writing because, again, if anything happens, I don't want the county to be liable," said Stephen Tyler, Victoria County Criminal District Attorney.

He believed testing the technology July 19 was not a waste of time.

"We have already done all the legal research, and the court is familiar with it, so, should this necessity come up again, we will be prepared," Tyler said.

If Stephney's airplane must land for a medical emergency, Tyler will reurge the issue.

Tyler filed a motion to use the technology in March. Doctors said then that Stephney could not fly for another three to six months.

During the dress rehearsal, defense attorney Jerry Clark, who represents Bonner, argued the point would be moot if Stephney was no longer incapacitated. He echoed those sentiments Friday, adding the justice system, which provides for the defendant to face their accuser, has worked well for some 150 years.

Dilworth's attorney, Lee Lewis, could not be reached for comment Friday, but he objected to the technology because it violated the Sixth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Texas Constitution, according to court documents.

"It's basically what we asked for in the beginning, and now, it's going to come to pass. We look forward to trying the case," Clark said. "The jury will do what they think is right. That is all we can ask for."

The trial is expected to begin Aug. 6.



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