A North County judge is the subject of a serious legal challenge from county prosecutors after his recent criticism of the district attorney’s office.
In a recent bicycle theft trial, in which the defense argued the verdict should be overturned because of problems with discover, Judge Harry Elias criticized the prosecutors’ handling of fingerprint evidence and said the DA's office has a bad reputation among some defense attorneys, and other judges.
Prosecutors, who insist they did absolutely nothing wrong in that case, filed a motion demanding Judge Elias should step down from the case because those comments reveal “a clear mindset of bias and prejudice.”
Judge Elias made a quick and very forceful decision at a hearing this week. He said he's done absolutely nothing wrong, and will stay on the case.
During a television interview Thursday, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said prosecutors do follow the rules, and do turn over evidence to the defense, as required.
“We do that. We take our duty to do that very seriously and we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards,” she said.
Elias is a former prosecutor, with years of experience on the bench. He's handed high-profile cases, like the trial of off-duty policeman Frank White, who was acquitted of negligence in the shooting of a motorist.
One veteran attorney said Judge Elias is an excellent jurist, with a reputation for fairness.
“He doesn't always rule their way, but he calls them the way he sees them, and that's all you can expect from a judge," said attorney Lynn Beheymer.
Elias will continue on the case and is expected to rule on whether to uphold the bicycle theft verdict. Dumanis said Thursday that her office will consider whether to appeal Elias' decision to not recuse himself from the case.