Attorney for Brownwood DNA Capital Murder Suspect “ Literally Fighting for his life!”Press Release
BROWNWOOD, TX -- In groundbreaking DNA evidence case and what is almost a first of its kind murder prosecution a Texas District Judge in Brownwood has ordered potential witnesses not to talk to the media and suppressed information in an attempt to ensure a fair trial.
In a case that made national news, 35th District Judge Steve Ellis has issued a gag order in the Ryan Riggs capital murder case and granted several pre-trial motions the attorney for the 21-year-old capital murder defendant has filed.
According to reports from the Brownwood Bulletin, those motions deal with topics ranging from a court clothing allowance for Riggs to modifying conditions of the defense team’s jailhouse visits with Riggs.
The gag order heavily restricts the comments members of law enforcement, attorneys and family members of Riggs and murder victim Chantay Blankinship can made to the media. Ellis wrote in the order that its intent is to ensure a fair trial.
Ellis earlier appointed John Wright of Lubbock, regional public defender for capital cases, as Riggs’ attorney. Wright has asserted in pre-trial motions that the state is seeking the death penalty and that Riggs, who is charged in the May 13, 2016 murder of Blankinship, “is therefore literally fighting for his life.”
District Attorney Micheal Murray has given no indication to the court whether the state will seek the death penalty against Riggs.
Sheriff Vance Hill, answering a question from commissioners during the commissioners court meeting Monday morning, said Murray “has not decided if he’s going to seek the death penalty at this point. We’re still checking on several things during the course of the investigation. There are a lot of contributing factors that go into that.”
Wright has also filed a waiver of arraignment on behalf of Riggs, meaning he will not appear in court on Dec. 11 as previously scheduled.
In response to one of Wright’s motions, Ellis signed a court order last week directing any jail visitation between Riggs and the defense team, including experts working for the defense, be private and not recorded. Ellis also ordered that the sheriff’s office “may not use any means to monitor or record the audio portion of these visitations.”
Ellis further ordered that Riggs will not be shackled or handcuffed while visiting with the defense team or experts working for the defense.
Wright requested in his motion that Riggs be permitted “private, unrecorded and unmonitored unshackled and un-handcuffed contact visitation” with the defense and experts.
Defense team members previously met with Riggs in the jail ’in a separate room in which two video cameras are readily visible. Mr. Riggs is required to remain seated on a metal stool.”
In another motion, Wright sought, and received, a $500 clothing allowance for four shirts, three pants and a belt for Riggs to wear when he appears in pre-trial hearings and in a trial that is expected to last up to three weeks.
In the commissioners court meeting Monday morning, commissioners approved a $3,600 payment to Parabon NanoLabs of Reston, Va., the company that created a drawing of what the suspect in the Blankinship murder might look like based on DNA. Sheriff’s officials have said Riggs confessed shortly after the drawing was made public.
The sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office have agreed to split the cost using drug seizure money from their offices, Hill told commissioners. The question about the death penalty came up as commissioners approved the action.
Riggs remains jailed on two charges — capital murder, with bond denied, and an unrelated illegal dumping case.