WACO (August 17, 2013)—A decision handed down this week by the 10th Court of Appeals in Waco has cleared the way for trial to continue in a 15-year-old case revolving around the murder of a local teenager.
James Earl Williams, 46, claimed a plea bargain deal he made with prosecutors 11 years ago left the murder charge dismissed, but justices on the 10th Court on Thursday disagreed and denied a writ of mandamus filed in the case.
Williams’ attorneys, Ron Moody and John R. Donahue, both of Waco, successfully halted the case at trial on July 22 when they presented 54th District Court Judge Matt Johnson with a motion claiming the charge had been dismissed after Williams made a plea deal with the prosecutors.
Johnson denied the motion, which meant the only remedy defense attorneys had was to file the writ with the 10th Court.
Had the 10th Court upheld the writ, the trial court would have been forced to honor the claim and dismiss the proceeding.
Johnson, after a jury had been selected, set the trial aside to give Moody and Donahue time to have the writ heard in 10th Court.
He reset the trial to Sept. 23 and ordered the jury to return that day so the trial could resume if his ruling was upheld.
Williams was indicted on March 28, 2012 in connection with the June 12, 1998 murder of Darren Eugene Lang, 17, in a drive-by shooting.
The indictment came so late because the case file was lost from the time of the filing until the new DA's staff found it stuffed into an old filing cabinet and resurrected it.
Williams was arrested in 2012 while serving time for a drug conviction at a federal prison in Big Spring, brought back to Waco and indicted.
He has been held at the McLennan County Jail since then in lieu of a $1 million bond on the murder charge.
Another man, Terrance Lamar Johnson, 34, was arrested last August as a material witness to the murder and on a charge of aggravated robbery in an unrelated incident and was being held Monday in the McLennan County Jail held in lieu of a $10,000 bond.
Both men also were held on federal detainers without bond.
Lang, after he was shot, drove from the scene to the old Waco Police Department building at North 4th Street and West Waco Drive and died at the building's back door, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
A Waco police detective had identified Williams in 1998 as the suspected gunman after several witnesses gave police his name.
Why the file was stored and what happened to it in the intervening years is unknown, Jarrett said.