Dallas County

Hearing Held Over Whether to Toss Dallas Judge from High-Profile Murder Case

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In a Dallas County courtroom Tuesday, in front of an out-of-town judge, attorneys in the murder trial of 23-year-old Marisela Botello debated whether Judge Amber Givens should be tossed from the case after the prosecution claimed she displayed bias against them.

Nina Marano, Charles Beltran and Lisa Dykes were indicted when Botello's body was found near Wilmer months after the Seattle woman disappeared from Deep Ellum in 2020.

According to the state, Givens showed bias during a four-day discovery hearing that took place earlier this year after Marano’s trial, set for January, was pushed back for a special hearing set to introduce evidence originally missing in the case.

Throughout the four-day discovery, it was found that Dallas Police failed to turn over hundreds of videos and photos, including some that were deleted.

Throughout it, the state said Givens showed bias against the prosecutor, challenging her professionalism.

“To quote her, she said she was lackadaisical when it came to discovery in this case. Even when we showed her time and time again, that ever since the case got filed, we’ve been asking DPD for phone dumps, for videos, for things like that, ever since they filed the case we weren’t getting very much of a response,” said Jennifer Balido, chief of the Appellate Division of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

The defense argued they believe Givens expressed frustration rather than bias.

“The bottom line is had they done their job, we would've had that evidence and determined whether we were even going to go to trial, or it could've helped the case. We don't know. But that's the problem with them not doing their job. She holds them accountable and now you're going to take her off the case. I just think that sends a sad message,” said Heath Harris.

Harris’s team went on to say, recusing Givens could set a dangerous precedent.

The D.A.’s office maintains, their challenge is simply about keeping the process fair.

"We're not saying she wouldn't be a good judge in all of our cases. Just in this particular case, we think she's shown she's biased towards the state in this case and the prosecutor in this case,” said Balido.

Judge Jim Pruitt of Rockwall will rule whether to recuse Givens in the case. He said he’ll announce his decision Friday.

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