"Smith County justice, baby!" Capital murder defendant lashes out in court

"Smith County justice, baby!" Capital murder defendant lashes out in court

Capital murder defendant James Calvert returned to a Smith County district courtroom Thursday for a pretrial hearing regarding a long list of motions pertaining to how Calvert's trial will proceed.

Calvert is accused of killing his ex-wife Jelena Sriraman on Halloween if 2012 and then kidnapping his young son before being caught on the run in Louisiana.

In February, Calvert fired his court appointed attorneys and decided to represent himself.

Calvert's first motion was an attempt to be given additional information about how the grand jury came to indict him in 2012. He told Judge Jack Skeen Jr. he found the relatively quick amount of time between his arrest and indictment suspicious.

"I don't have any proof," Calvert said. "What I want is more information so that I can explore that.

Calvert said he was asking for names of jurors, commissioners and bailiffs involved. He claimed the fact that the indictment was notarized after having been file-marked was improper.

Calvert further noted his suspicion that the grand jury was convened "out of bias, just to indict me."

"We're not going to give him anything unless the court orders it," District Attorney Matt Bingham said. "He basically got up there and said a big bunch of nothing. He hasn't shown just cause."

Bingham added that the grand jury has long been a protected entity and that Calvert was "ignorant" of the fact that the grand jury is not connected with the district attorney's office. The district attorney said Calvert's case had always been a top priority and acknowledged the fact that Calvert's indictment was the result of a special setting of the grand jury.

"When you have a man who murdered his wife and wrecked out in Louisiana and still has the weapon on him, that's a priority for us,l Bingham said.

Calvert objected to Bingham's characterizations of him but was overruled.

Skeen ruled that he would grant some of the specific requests in the motion pending a statutory review. He denied a number if requests as well.

Calvert made a motion to be provided certain court transcripts. It was granted.

Calvert made a motion to be provided with certain digital data pulled from various devices (i.e. cell phones, tablets), claiming the data could be "exculpatory, mitigating or impeaching."

Bingham argued that Calvert's motion involved circular logic in which Calvert either already knew the contents of his own devices and had no need for mitigating evidence or was on a fishing expedition and throwing out "buzzwords" for no reason.

Assistant District Attorney April Sikes said the district attorney's office was still in the process of forensically examining the devices in question.

"Anything we test, he'll certainly be provided a copy of," Sikes said.

Sikes said all of the devices mentioned in Calvert's motion were already set to be tested by the state.

"I just don't want to be getting this all thirty minutes before trial," Calvert said.

"Oh well that's not going to occur," Judge Skeen said.

Calvert made a motion to be provided additional photographs of certain evidence. One, he said, was photograph of the red and white shooting target in the trunk of his confiscated car.

Bingham said it was not a matter of the photograph existing and not having been provided. Instead, he said, the state had not photographed it.

A minor argument erupted over whether the target is still physically in the car. Calvert insisted Bingham and Sikes were lying about the target remaining in the car. The prosecutors said they were not, and that they needed his consent to re-enter the car, having exhausted an existing search warrant.

Calvert declined to give that consent. He also requested photos of his car keys (individually) and his federal firearms license. That was granted.

Bingham argued that Calvert's continual requests to re-examine evidence were an unnecessary burden on technical workers who would have to unseal and re-seal evidence bags over and over.

Calvert's next motion was to compel the state to produce "notes from the EOC."

A lengthy discussion resulted in Calvert being unable to define what he was searching for.

"I don't know what I'm looking for," Calvert said.

Later, Sikes realized Calvert was possibly looking photos of notes on a white board made during the manhunt while he was in Louisiana. She said photos of those notes had been provided.

Calvert made a motion to do away with a pretrial motion in the case. It was denied.

Judge Skeen instead extended the deadline for pretrial motions to July 17.

Calvert made a motion for prosecutors and himself to be held to the same standards during trial. His argument was that jurors could be prejudiced by the movement-limiting leg brace he's forced to wear as a security precaution. Therefore, he said, both sides should be prevented from moving around the courtroom.

Judge Skeen said that was a bad idea that would likely be done away with very quickly at trial.

Calvert further noted that he would prefer to be secured with a "shock collar" at trial. That matter was tabled until closer to trial.

Calvert made a motion to be provided with an "adequate law library" at the jail. He told Judge Skeen that "rumors" indicated the one being assembled in the renovated jail was inadequate.

Skeen asked whether Calvert had case law showing that he had an absolute right to such a library as a pro se defendant.

Calvert said he did not, instead citing a case that contradicted his claim of a right to such a library.

That issue will be taken up in a future hearing.

Calvert's next motion accused the prosecution of withholding Microsoft Access files from his own computer after seizing it as evidence. Most of the data from that hard drive was already turned over to Calvert in the discovery process. Calvert's argument was that the Access files would not be contraband and were important to him.

Calvert also argued that some other documents were missing.

Sikes argued that he had been given the files, but that they might not be in the format Calvert is familiar with.

Tim McLemee, the state's computer expert, took the stand. He brought with him two USB flash drives.

He testified that Calvert's computer contained "thousands of pornographic images," which necessitated certain material being withheld from Calvert given restrictions at the jail.

Sikes marked the flash drives, one with an "S" for "state" and one with a "C" for Calvert. Asked whether it mattered which one was labeled as which and ultimately handed off to each party, McLemee said it made no difference.

Calvert cross-examined McLemee, asking whether he would produce the Microsoft Access database files.

The cross-examination ended with Calvert calling McLemee "useless," angering Sikes and drawing a strong rebuke from Judge Skeen.

Calvert then called his standby council, Jason Cassel, as a witness.

Cassel testified that he had purchased Microsoft Access in order to review Calvert's database files, which he said existed and appeared to contain things like names and addresses.

The state challenged that Cassel had only seen a separate copy and could not testify to the contents of the flash drive in question.

Calvert then became argumentative with the court over his own intention to defy court orders barring Cassel from providing the data directly.

"I'll just get it from him," Calvert said.

"No you won't," Judge Skeen said.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Sikes attempted to turn additional discover in the case over to Calvert.

He refused to sign an acceptance form, telling the judge he no longer trusts the prosecution.

As he walked out, Calvert turned to the television cameras and sarcastically yelled "Smith County Justice baby!"


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