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State prosecutors file motion asking for Judge Amber Givens to be recused from murder case

Givens had been recused from about 100 active cases last year.
Credit: Dallas County

DALLAS — Dallas County prosecutors have filed a motion in the murder case against Nina Marano, asking that the judge presiding over the case be recused. 

Prosecutors argue in the motion that the judge, 282nd District Court Judge Amber Givens, be recused, arguing a lack of impartiality and a bias against the assigned prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Robin Pittman. 

The case against Marano, which accuses her of killing Maricella Botello, a young woman who disappeared in October 2020 in Deep Ellum, has been in the spotlight recently after the trial was delayed last month after prosecutors revealed Dallas Police Department Detective Christine Ramirez had failed to turn over hundreds of pieces of evidence. 

In the motion, prosecutors argue the recusal is warranted for a number of reasons, including a lack of impartiality. The motion states that Givens' actions in prior hearings are such that her impartiality might be "reasonably questioned." A provision cited in the motion requires a judge to recuse themselves in any proceeding where their impartiality "may reasonably be questioned." 

Accusations against Givens in the motion include making public comments about her opinions of Pittman's professionalism, not allowing prosecutors to reply to her allegations of complicity with the DPD's failure to disclose evidence, acting as an advocate rather than an arbiter in a hearing and making inappropriate statements about the prosecution to the jury panel.

Remarks made in court by Givens toward Pittman include stating that Pittman "has been lackadaisical in her handling of this case," the motion details. 

The motion goes on to argue for Givens' bias against Pittman by saying Givens refused to concede that Pittman was not at fault in the late disclosure of discovery. 

"From the very beginning of the discovery hearings, Judge Givens failed to acknowledge defense counsel's insistence that DPD Detective Ramirez was at fault, not ADA Pittman," the motion states. "Her anger with ADA Pittman is evident when she would not allow her to leave the courtroom to call ADA Balido when the Court ordered her to do so." 

The motion states a fair trial could not be held if Givens remains as the presiding judge for the case. 

"Judge Givens' actions and comments taint these cases in such a way that a fair trial cannot be held by the state," the motion argues. "Because of the past actions and comments of the judge, every time this case is set for a pretrial hearing or jury trial, it will be news."

Givens' past errors, the motion details, can be fixed by her recusal and the assignment of "a fair and impartial judge to preside over these matters." 

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