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Defendant claims he can't get fair trial

Defendant claims he can't get fair trial

Man sentenced for murder in 2006 now faces a charge of burglary

May 16th, 2018 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News
Reggie Mason Smith

NEW BOSTON, Texas—A man sentenced to seven years in prison for murder in 2006 by a Bowie County jury argued Tuesday that new charges he's facing are the result of retaliation.

Reggie Mason Smith, 42, was found guilty of murder in the Aug. 5, 2006, shooting death of Christopher "Rudy" White and sentenced to just two years above the minimum allowable sentence in December 2006. Witnesses at trial testified Smith, a white man, was angry because his estranged wife was dating White, a black man.

Smith waited for his wife at a house on Colorado Street in Texarkana, Texas. Armed with a pistol, Smith struck a friend of his wife's as he got out of the car and dragged another woman by her hair before fatally shooting White. White was driving and attempted to pull away when Smith began assaulting his companions.

Smith fired two shots through the driver's window, striking White. The car careened diagonally across the street and crashed into a neighbor's garage on Potomac. An infant in the back seat of the car was unharmed but White did not survive.

Smith is now facing a charge of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit assault. Smith was charged after allegedly kicking in the door of a home Jan. 1, 2015, on Myrtle Springs Road in Bowie County, according to a probable cause affidavit used to create the following account. Smith allegedly believed the couple who lived there were responsible for him hearing voices.

The homeowners allegedly told officers Smith is often armed and under the influence of methamphetamine. Smith allegedly threatened deputies with a small pocket knife and warned he would charge them if they approached. Smith allegedly dropped the knife in an above-ground pool before surrendering.

At a pretrial hearing last week before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart, Smith complained that he cannot get a fair trial in Bowie County because of a public perception that the shooting may have involved a racial component. Smith's lawyer, Deborah Moore of the Bowie County Public Defenders Office, filed a motion to change venue citing publicity in 2006.

At a hearing to address that motion Tuesday, Smith accused Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp of prosecuting him for the 2015 burglary out of retaliation. Smith apparently held the mistaken belief that Crisp was one of two prosecutors who handled the state's case against him in 2006.

"I didn't graduate until 2007," Crisp said of her law school completion.

Realizing that Crisp was not involved in the prosecution of his 2006 murder case did little to ease Smith's criticism of how his current case is being handled. Smith complained at the length of time between his arrest and trial setting next month and argued that the state doesn't have any evidence against him.

Lockhart pointed out that Smith was free on bond until he cut off his GPS leg monitor and was arrested in February 2017 for possession of a firearm by a felon. Smith allegedly threatened to kill himself with a 12-gauge shotgun, which he allegedly pointed at his father Feb. 11, 2017.

Lockhart mentioned months Smith spent at a state hospital undergoing a psychological evaluation. Speedy trial laws apply differently when a defendant is free on bail or when a delay in the case occurs at the request of the defense or as the result of circumstances beyond the state's control.

To address the defense's position that publicity surrounding the 2006 case makes getting a fair trial for Smith impossible in Bowie County, Crisp called two witnesses.

Bowie County Clerk Tina Petty testified that she has worked in the Bowie County courthouse since 2005 and has no recollection of Smith's 2006 case or media coverage of it. Casey Tutt, who was working in the fines and collections department at Bowie County Courthouse in 2006, said she has no memory of the case either.

Lockhart denied Smith's motion to change venue.

Smith's burglary case is scheduled for trial June 12. Prosecutors have filed an enhancement notice in the case which could increase the punishment range from five to 99 years or life to 15 to 99 years or life.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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