The murder trial of Randall Philen, who is accused of shooting his brother to death 20 months ago, won't begin on Aug. 29 as initially scheduled because Philen no longer has a lawyer.
District Judge Steve Ellis allowed Philen's court-appointed attorney, John Lee Blagg, to withdraw from the case after Blagg filed a motion stating conflict of interest. Ellis removed Blagg during a hearing on Monday and said he will appoint a new lawyer, and noted there was no way the case could go to trial next week.
Blagg said he represents clients who, he has learned, will be state's witnesses against Philen. That would put Blagg in the position of cross-examining his own clients. Blagg said he talked to a representative of the State Bar of Texas and was advised he should withdraw.
Ellis rehashed previous hearings that dealt with potential conflicts of interest and discussed with Blagg whether the witnesses and Philen would waive the conflicts. It became obvious those waivers were not going to happen as the hearing continued.
"Everybody here is on the horns of a dilemma. It's just a train wreck," Ellis said. "My goal is to have a fair trial for all concerned."
"I was going to ask if I can have my right to a speedy trial," Philen said. Philen, 52, has been in the Brown County Jail since his arrest on Dec. 11, 2009.
Ellis told Philen he has not lost that right and said the trial will take after a new lawyer is ready to go.
"I'm not happy about this," Ellis said. "As bad as it is, it's better to deal with these things now than later."
Blagg had also filed a motion seeking a delay in the Aug. 29 trial because, Blagg said, exculpatory evidence has been recently discovered and is being analyzed by a crime lab. That point became moot since Blagg was removed from the case.
Philen's brother, Ronald, was 49 when he was shot in the chest in the home the two shared at 1606 Ninth St. in Brownwood.