Mendez panel ready to ‘speak truth’ on Sept. 10

Bandido Tom Modesto Mendez will face jury selection on Sept. 10


Waco – Speaking in well-modulated tones, 19th Criminal District Judge Ralph T. Strother prepared a special panel of 600 veniremen to answer “voir dire” questioning in the 1st degree felony “riot” case against Twin Peaks defendant Tom Mendez.

Though court officials anticipated a motion for the judge’s recusal and cautioned media not to make any mention of their suppositions based on requests by defense counsel Jaime Pena for documentation of previous motions, the judge questioned nearly 100 who sought to prove their exemption in private, granting only a few the privilege to skip out on the case.

By day’s end, he was still on the bench. Filing a motion for recusal would have dictated a halt to the jury selection process, then and there.

He ordered the venire to report at 10 a.m. on Sept. 10 to be subjected to “probing, penetrating, personal questions” regarding their attitudes and beliefs about the law, the facts of the case they may already know, and their overall fitness to serve as jurors.

If convicted, Mendez will face not less than five years nor more than 99 behind penitentiary bars, or the possibility of a life sentence if jurors find the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that each element of the indictment is true.

Judge Strother cautioned the veniremen that anything less than complete proof of all elements of the charge entitles a defendant to a not guilty verdict.

A provision of the section on disorderly conduct, “riot” is a Class B misdemeanor, unless prosecutors have stipulated their intention to prove that an actor failed to leave the assembly when riot conditions developed, and that the result of the conduct of seven or more persons resulted in the commission of first degree felony, or lesser degrees of offenses.

He further cautioned them that the burden of proof is on the state, that a defendant’s failure to testify is nothing to hold against him, and that there is no reason for the accused to seek to prove anything – anything at all. “No one is required to prove their innocence.”

He further stressed that nothing reported by media, mainstream corporate or social, is to be considered as evidence. Evidence must prove to the individual juror as a finder of fact that the charge is true “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and that there is no legal standard as to what constitutes a reasonable doubt.

“We leave that up to the individual,” Judge Strother said.

The judge predicted the trial will last for at least two weeks and that in the process of elimination of all but the remaining first 12 and two alternates, each side will have 10 peremptory strikes, and an unlimited number of challenges for cause.

He also stressed that “If you live in this community,” which is one of the qualifications for jury duty, “and you haven’t heard about Twin Peaks, you’ve been living in a cave.”

On May 17, 2015, it is alleged that about 300 persons who had gathered for a meeting of the Confederation of Clubs, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts, found themselves in riotous conditions, and that 22 of them are guilty of rioting. An additional three are accused of murder.

In the melee that occurred at the restaurant that day, 9 died by gunshot, 20 were wounded, and 177 were initially arrested and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. Their bonds were initially set at $1 million.


The 25 now facing trial are indicted in “superseding” charges.

According to attorneys for one defendant, Marcus Pilkington, that is an illegal procedure prohibited by the double jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

They have entered a motion to quash the indictment of Pilkington in 54th District Court, and if Judge Matt Johnson denies the motion, they have announced their intentions to appeal to the 10th District Court of Appeals, which sits in this city, for mandamus relief.

If the writ is denied in that court, they will take the appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals at Austin, the state’s highest venue for criminal appeals.


  • The Legendary

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