Jury selection delayed in Kaufman County murder trial



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Posted on May 21, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 12:28 PM

KAUFMAN COUNTY -- A judge has delayed the start of jury selection and capital murder trial for a former justice of the peace accused in last year's killings of the Kaufman County District Attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor.

Dallas County District Judge Mike Snipes agreed to delay court proceedings Wednesday after defense attorneys for Eric Williams filed a motion seeking more time to prepare their case.

Jury selection is now slated to begin on Sept. 22. It had been scheduled to start June 3. The trial, originally scheduled for October, has been delayed about six weeks to Dec. 1.

Williams and his wife, Kim, have been accused in the slaying of Mark Hasse, 57, on Jan. 31, 2013. He was gunned down by a masked man as he walked to the downtown Kaufman Courthouse.

District Attorney Mike McLelland, 63, and his wife Cynthia, 65, were killed in their Forney home over Easter weekend of that year.‎

‎‎During the hearing, defense attorney Matthew Seymour said that they needed more time because of the extraordinary amount of evidence that's been assembled in the case. He also cited the fact that they continue to receive discovery from the state.

"We just keep getting more and more material," Seymour said. ‎

He asked that jury selection start no earlier than 2015.

‎In making the decision, Snipes said he had to weigh Williams' right to a fair trial against the right of the victims', their families and the community to have closure. He also said Williams' right to a speedy trial was a factor.

The prosecution team did not oppose the motion. In fact, prosecutor Bill Wirskye acknowledged the extraordinary amount of evidence and that technological difficulties had them down in turning some of it over.

‎It was also noted during the hearing that the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office has loaned a prosecutor to help with those efforts.

Snipes also questioned the defense team about whether they really needed more time, and indicated that he believed he had already been more than amenable to their requests.

‎Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Eric Williams. 

Cynthia McLelland's adult children were in court for the proceedings. They were not surprised by the judge's decision to delay. 

‎"I've been totally okay with them taking a little more time and getting it right the first time‎," said Nathan Foreman, her son who is a Dallas police officer.

Eric Williams was also in court.

Last month, it was revealed that state police divers recovered a weapon from Lake Tawakoni that forensic testing shows was used to assassinate Hasse.

The gun, as well as a second gun and a black mask, were recovered March 5 as divers with the Texas Department of Public Safety searched along the Highway 276 “two-mile bridge” area in Hunt County, according to an search warrant affidavit obtained by News 8. The lake is located about 40 miles northeast of Kaufman. 
That second gun has been directly linked through purchase records to Williams’ wife, Kim, the records state.‎

Authorities believe the couple began plotting the murders after McLelland and Hasse prosecuted Williams in a theft and burglary case that resulted in his removal as a justice of the peace in 2012. Williams was also stripped of his law license. A judge sentenced him to probation in that case.

The case has been moved to Rockwall County.‎ 

Snipes is presiding over the case after a Kaufman County judge recused himself. 

Eric Williams is currently being held in the Kaufman County Jail on $23 million bail.

E-mail: teiserer@wfaa.com