By Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer
The trial of former Baylor football player Shawn Oakman began Tuesday with jury selection, following the appointment of visiting judge, Michael R. Snipes, a retired former Dallas County Criminal District Court Seven Judge. Snipes appointment comes after the original presiding judge, 19th District Court Judge Ralph Strother, recused himself from Oakman’s trial on Monday.
Tuesday morning, Oakman’s defense attorney, Alan Bennett, and prosecutors, made their cases about an alleged ex parte interaction between the prosecuting attorneys and Judge Strothers. Bennett had filed three motions on Feb. 25, to dismiss the case, recuse the judge, and disqualify the prosecuting attorneys.
Bennett argued that the prosecutors had participated in misconduct and damaged Oakman’s right to due process by asking Strother to unseal 11 documents, that were originally sealed by the defense. The prosecution did not inform the defense about unsealing the documents.
Bennett said that the sealed documents were critical in the defense’s case and with them unsealed has left the defense at a disadvantage.
Snipes denied the motions made by the defense to dismiss the case and disqualify the prosecutors.
Snipes said he was impressed by Bennett’s motions and his arguments for the motions but that the court would proceed with the trial and the same prosecuting attorneys. Snipes then told the jury to meet at 12:30 p.m. for the selection process.
Bennett asked for the jury to decide punishment in the event of a conviction. Oakman could face up to two to 20 years in prison. The jury can recommend probation with a sentencing of 10 years or less.
Testimony for the Oakman trial will begin at 9:00 am Wednesday.