COVID-19 leads to continuance request in murder case
Atonio Prado Jr. was in the 15th state District Court Thursday with his third attorney to face charges in the 2017 shooting death of a 5-year-old Denison boy.
Nelson Knight replaced Rick Dunn as Prado’s attorney back in July. Dunn had replaced Joe Smith back in March. Prado has pleaded not guilty to the charges that he faces.
Thursday, Knight asked Judge Jim Fallon to continue the case past the November 2 trial date.
Prado, and his two co-defendants, Sabrina Nino and Ryan Clay, are each charged with capital murder in the Nov. 19, 2017 death of Kason Powell and a host of other charges for the shooting that also resulted in the injury of another 11-year-old child during what authorities have referred to as a botched drug deal with an older relative of the victim.
Knight told Judge Fallon that he thinks the case should be rest until after the COVID-19 restrictions in place in Texas courtrooms have been lifted.
Fallon laughed a little at that and said he would be happy to consider that if he had any idea when that might be. He said the rules in place have been enacted by the Office of Court Administration so they must think they cover the rights afforded defendants in criminal trials.
Knight countered that he won’t be able to actually see the way potential jurors are responding to questions during the jury selection process because half of their faces will be covered with a mask. Additionally, he said, he had heard they might use a smaller than normal jury pool from which to select jurors due to the pandemic and he doesn’t think it will be possible to get a proper jury picked with fewer than the normal number of possible jurors.
And, he said, he and the jurors won’t be able to see the full faces of the witnesses in the trial and that would keep his client from being afforded his constitutional right to face his accusers.
Fallon said he would withhold his answer about the continuance request until he, Knight and First Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore had a chance to walk across the street and see the large courtrooms in the Grayson County Courthouse and discuss the way that those rooms can be used to work through some of the issues that Knight brought up.
True to his word, after ruling on some routine pretrial matters in the case, Fallon did walk across the street with the two attorneys. He did not, however, announce his decision about the continuance on Thursday in open court.
Sabrina Nino is represented in the case by attorney Steven Miears and does not currently have a trial date set. Ryan Clay is represented by Pam McGraw and also does not have a trial date set.