Ellis: No more last-minute issues in Navarro trial

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Navarro case

District Judge Steve Ellis made it clear in a pre-trial hearing Thursday in 35th District Court that he doesn't want any more last-minute delays in the capital murder trial of Matthew Navarro, now set for June 2.

Navarro is one of four men charged in the December 2009 shooting death of Ronald Philen in Brownwood. Navarro is the only one of the four with a case still pending.

Ellis granted a continuance as jury selection was about to begin for Navarro's trial on the morning of Jan. 27 when defense attorney Evan Pierce-Jones said a piece of evidence — an audio-video recording of investigators' interview of a witness — couldn't be located.

Ellis, Jones and prosecutor Sam Moss dealt with the topic of the missing evidence during a pre-trial hearing Thursday.

"I don't want to get up to the last minute again and have issues," Ellis told the attorneys.

The audio-video recording still hasn't been located, and Ellis approved an agreement between the lawyers Thursday that will allow an Austin company, Flashback Data, to try to see if the recording ever existed on a hard drive at the sheriff's office and can be retrieved.

Jones said on Jan. 27 that prosecutors had provided him with discs that contain videos of two interviews Texas Ranger Danny Crawford and then-Brownwood police detective Bruce Spruill had conducted with a man named Joseph Bates. Bates is the brother-in-law of Alex Gil, one of the other men charged in Philen's death.

Those interviews were conducted in December 2011 and March 2012. But a video of a third interview of Bates, conducted on Jan. 4, 2012, couldn't be located, Ellis was told.

Prosecutors don't have it either, and the video could not be located on recording equipment at the sheriff's office. 

Sheriff's investigators have said the recording is not on the hard drive.