Visiting Judge Rules Judge Kemp Can't Preside Over DA Contempt Case

L.P. Phillips
November 15, 2019 - 1:50 pm
Judge Tammy Kemp

NBC 5

Categories: 

DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - A visiting judge today ruled that Dallas County State District Court Judge Tammy Kemp should be removed from presiding over a contempt of court hearing for District Attorney John Creuzot.

Creuzot had wanted Kemp removed claiming she was biased against Creuzot.

"It's evident that each of those grounds for recusal are true and for that reason I will grant the motion to recuse Judge Kemp." said Judge Robert Brotherton, Witicha Falls.

The case now reverts back to Judge Ray Wheless, Presiding Judge of the First Administrative Judicial Region of Texas for a decision on who to appoint to preside over the contempt hearing.

The unusual hearing took place in Kemp's courtroom, the same where she presided over the murder trial of former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger. The highly publicized case, which took place in September and the first few days of October, garnered massive public interest. Guyger was convicted of murdering Botham Jean in his own apartment in 2018, after Guyger went to the wrong floor of their apartment building by mistake.

Kemp had entered a gag order in an attempt to corral pretrial publicity.

However, the day before testimony began, a local television station aired an interview with Creuzot, in which the D.A. explained that he thought the murder charge was appropriate. In the moments before the Guyger trial was to begin, defense attorneys raised the interview with Kemp, who was unaware of its broadcast, and asked for a mistrial. Kemp expressed shock from the bench, getting up from her chair, turning her back to the court, then addressing attorneys.

"You mean, prior to the start of this trial, our elected D.A. did an interview about this trial?" she asked.

Kemp then went to her chambers and viewed the report before calling attorneys back.

Jason Hermus, lead prosecutor, testified at today's hearing via Facetime, from a relative's home in Canada. "I suggested it may have been inadvertent if there was a violation (of the gag order)." he said. Hermus said Kemp told him to "stop defending her boss."

Hermus's recollection was bolstered by another attorney who was present.

"She did tell Mr. Hermus not to apologize for his boss." said Toby Shook, one of Guyger's defense lawyers who was in the same meeting held in Kemp's chambers.

A second contention by Creuzot was that Kemp acted in a retaliatory manner when she wrote an order disqualifying the District Attorney's office from representing the D.A. in the contempt matter. Creuzot asked Brotherton to overturn that order. Brotherton agreed, although the point seems moot. Creuzot has already hired a Houston attorney to represent him in the contempt case. A District attorney Pro Tem will have to be appointed to prosecute the contempt matter, since it would be a clear conflict for Creuzot's office to handle the case.

"The gag order does not prohibit Judge Creuzot from giving an interview or discussing the Guyger case." said Brian Wice, Creuzot's lawyer. He looks forward to a hearing on the contempt case.