Weatherford Democrat

Top News

September 21, 2012

Judge recuses self from animal cruelty case

PARKER COUNTY — A Parker County judge presiding over a high-profile animal cruelty case has recused himself and transferred the cases to another court.

Late last month, court-appointed attorney Chris Castanon for defendant Linda Pharis, accused of animal cruelty in the dehydration deaths of nine horses last year, filed a motion requesting County Court at Law 1 Judge Jerry Buckner disqualify or recuse himself.

Buckner did just that earlier this month. He also went a step further and tranferred all the charges involving co-defendant Keith Hall to County Court at Law 2, as well.

Administrative Judge Jeff Walker, who has oversight in recusals, approved the transfer of the 21 misdemeanor cases to County Court at Law 2 Judge Ben Akers last week, according to court records.

“The judge in this case has expressed his opinion that defendant is guilty of the offense charged thus the defendant cannot recieve a fair trial,” Castanon wrote in his motion.

A message left for Castanon was not returned by deadline. However, Pharis told the Democrat earlier this year that she felt statements made by the judge during a February administrative hearing indicated he believed she was guilty.

Pharis — along with thehorses' owner, Hall — faces nine class A misdemeanor charges of cruelty to livestock animals after the animals were found without water in August 2011 sometime after the well stopped pumping water. Investigators also reported the horses were malnourished and there did not appear to be enough food available to the animals. Hall also faces three class A misdemeanor drug charges.

Pharis has said she was not responsible for the horses at the time of their death.

Pharis originally signed a guilty plea during a plea negotiation on Jan. 23, which included a sentence of two years probation, a $2,000 fine and an agreement to testify for the state against Hall.

Prosecutors reportedly agreed to drop the other eight cases against her.

Pharis said she pleaded guilty because she felt she didn’t stand a chance at trial without representation by someone who knows the legal system.

She submitted paperwork twice in 2011 around the time of her arrests requesting a court-appointed attorney but never heard back, she said.

She began calling the judge and prosecutor’s offices after the Jan. 23 plea arrangement and reportedly filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, claiming Buckner had told her and other defendants during an earlier court appearance that he would not appoint them attorneys.

During her first court appearance, another defendant requested the paperwork, filled it out and was denied, according to Pharis, who added she felt the judge would not consider appointing her an attorney after his statements.

Buckner did not return calls about the issue, though he later told Pharis she misquoted him. Judges are restricted on talking about cases outside of the courtroom.

Buckner held a hearing Feb. 3, during which he set aside her plea.

 “Instead of having probation for killing nine horses, we’ll see what a Parker County jury thinks about that,” Buckner told Pharis.

He also admonished her for misquoting him and Pharis apologized.

During the same hearing, he initially denied her request for a court-appointed attorney but reversed his decision a few minutes later.

“I would rather go to trial on nine counts than plead guilty on one,” Pharis said afterward.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • students.jpg Is opting out an option?

    One local parent has taken it upon herself to make her voice heard. Michelle Osterkamp, who has two children attending Mary Martin Elementary, began to research the opt-out method after talking with some of her teacher friends.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Biz Index 1.jpg Let's get physical

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • EXTENSION NEWS: Take a mind vacation

    For many of us, every day has some sort of stress associated with it. Whether it is something at home or at work, it seems like there are a million things stressing us out and making us feel overwhelmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • VETERANS’ CORNER: Veterans’ needs the target of recent discussions

    Ministers responsible for Veterans Affairs and officials from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States completed a series of meetings April 8-11 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., discussing the latest research, best practices and various areas of collaboration to address the growing needs of veterans.

    April 20, 2014

  • MILLSAP MATTERS: Reunion time approaches

    MILLSAP – For many people this is the time of year that reunions are held. In that light, Millsap alumni will be enjoying their annual school reunion on Saturday, April 26.

    April 20, 2014

  • larry jones cropped:color NOW HEAR THIS: The fox and the hound, plus Max

    Almost without exception, most farms are protected to some degree by guard animals. Dogs and cats are most commonly used to defend against intruders and nuisance pests around the farmstead. In recent years with the proliferation of coyotes, many folks are using guard donkeys or llamas to protect their livestock.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Laws can’t be ignored

    Senator Harry Reid said, “We just can’t let people ignore the law.”

    April 20, 2014

  • Taste of Parker County logo.jpg Canyon West to host Taste of Parker County

    Prepare your taste buds, because the sixth annual Taste of Parker County is just a few short weeks away, and this year’s event has moved to a larger location to accommodate even more great eats and treats.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0420 one USAF riders IMG_7940.jpg Riding high

    Members of the United States Air Force Cycling Team, preparing to participate in the 12th annual Ride for Heroes in Aledo Saturday, met Friday with their supporters — members of the Bush Legacy Republican Women of Weatherford — for a pre-ride photo shoot at the historic courthouse followed by pre-ride carbo loading at Milano’s in Willow Park.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Grand jury indictments for April returned

    A Parker County grand jury on Thursday indicted a man accused of breaking into his neighbor’s home and threatening him with a BB gun before engaging in a brief standoff with deputies.

    April 19, 2014

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Obama to Oso: We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs
Poll

The City of Weatherford is considering an ordinance that would ban smoking inside restaurants and enclosed areas where food is prepared, sold or consumed. Do you agree with this proposal?

Yes
No
Undecided
Don't care
     View Results