Accused murderer James Calvert was back in a Smith County district courtroom Thursday, defending himself for the first time after successfully arguing to drop his court-appointed legal team a week ago.
Calvert is awaiting a capital murder trial after allegedly killing his ex-wife and kidnapping his son in October 2012.
Calvert made a request to be allowed the use of a laptop belonging to him but seized by the state during the course of the case. He claimed he is dealing now with print-outs of documents which the laptop has stored in digital form, and that some of the print-outs have been truncated.
Calvert also argued that discovery in the case could be more easily provided to him if he had something capable of reading his digital files. He currently has no access to such equipment inside his cell in the Smith County jail.
Calvert said jailers have objected to the "large amount" of printed records inside his cell.
Prosecutors Matt Bingham an April Sykes said Calvert had already been provided all 4,066 pages of discovery documents in printed form. Sykes went on to explain that other evidence exists, including videos from the Children's Advocacy Center and Child Protective Services, to which only the State of Texas is legally entitled to possession.
Sykes said disks of photographs could be provided in hard copy form. She said the only thing that would be absolutely unusable without a computer would be a copy of Calvert's hard drive previously seized as evidence.
Sykes also said she and District Attorney Bingham were concerned that Calvert's extensive computer skills would allow him to take advantage of any computer provided to him in a way that would allow him to potentially contact and intimidate potential witnesses.
Sykes and Bingham argued for the provision of dedicated video and audio players instead.
Calvert argued files like 3D views of the crime scene and certain databases made a computer fundamentally necessary for his right to see evidence against him, and to examine mitigating evidence on his own behalf. He also said that he was not asking for internet access.
Judge Jack Skeen Jr. said he was inclined to provide a laptop computer and printer if the state's computer expert could certify for the record that the computer could not possibly be connected to the internet.
Calvert then said he was concerned about how much access he would have to the laptop inside his cell.
Bingham said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith was prepared to testify about potential laptop access.
Smith said corded electronic devices were not allowed in Calvert's maximum security cell due to concerns about using the cord to harm a guard or himself.
Bingham asked Smith if the jail could accommodate Calvert's request of having four hours per day to use the laptop. Smith said any time with the laptop in the cell would require a dedicated deputy to watch Calvert, which Smith said would be a hardship for his department an potentially require pulling a deputy off street patrols.
Smith also said he was concerned about having to move Calvert to or from a place other than his cell each day in order to use the computer.
Smith said, ultimately, he would comply with the court's orders.
Calvert performed his own cross-examination on Sheriff Smith.Calvert asked whether a closet-type room near his existing cell could be used for his own laptop access with a minimum of inconvenience to the department's operations.
Smith said it would still require an extra deputy.
Calvert asked whether a lock could be put on the door of the room in question.
Smith said the lock could be installed, but that it would not be a maximum security cell appropriate for Calvert as a result.Judge Skeen ordered the purchase of the laptop and printer and said he would need more information from Sheriff Smith on the question of access.
Calvert's next pre-trial hearing will be Thursday, February 20, 2014.