Special prosecutors appointed in contempt case against Williamson Co. DA

Jana Duty (KXAN Photo)
Jana Duty (KXAN Photo)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) – A Williamson County District Judge appointed two prominent Austin lawyers as special prosecutors in the contempt of court case pending against Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty.

Last month, District Judge Rick Kennon filed a motion to hold Duty in contempt of court, accusing her of violating a gag order in the capital murder case against Crispin Harmel when she spoke to a news reporter about allegations she withheld evidence from Harmel’s defense attorneys. Harmel is awaiting a second trial for the death of Jessika Kalaher in 2009.  The first ended in a mistrial when Duty was accused of withholding video evidence.

In court on June 3rd Duty also admitted to contacting KXAN after initially testifying she did not contact any other media following the gag order. Duty contacted KXAN regarding a video posted on a video-hosting web site and anonymously furnished to KXAN, and subsequently posted on kxan.com.  Harmel’s defense team alleged the video depicts Duty showing animosity toward Harmel and his lead defense attorney and mocking Williamson County District Court Judges.  In court, and by phone to KXAN, Duty denied having any involvement in the making of the video, which was made by a friend of her husband’s, but admitted showing the video to her staff during a weekly meeting.

In late May, On Duty’s behalf, assistant district attorney Brent Webster filed a Writ of Mandamus in an attempt to have the contempt charge overturned by the 3rd Court of Appeals, but was denied by the court.  Webster filed a 2nd Writ of Mandamus two weeks later but was again denied.

The two special prosecutors appointed by Kennon are Archie Carl Pierce and Randy Howry.  Pierce, a former federal prosecutor, is a shareholder with the Austin-based law firm Wright and Greenhill. Howry, a recent nominee as a candidate for president-elect of the State Bar of Texas, is a partner with the Austin-based law firm Howry, Breen, & Herman.

The contempt hearing was set for July 6 but Pierce has filed a motion to reschedule the hearing for July 13, citing a scheduling conflict.

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