Pepper Spray Case Delayed. Defense Wants Judge Disqualified.
The second day of a preliminary hearing to determine whether a man accused of pepper spraying pro-Palestinian protesters in Fresno will go to trial was delayed on Friday.
The defense attorney for Brian Turner filed a motion to disqualify Judge Alvin Harrell III.
The motion, known as CCP 170.1, put a halt to the proceedings. Harrell set a May 26 date for a status conference on the motion.
Turner’s attorney, Marc Kapetan, would not explain his reasoning for the motion to GV Wire. The motion was not yet available on the court website as of Friday afternoon.
Related Story: Accused Fresno Pepper-Spray Attacker in Court, Faces Hate Crime Charge
At Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Anthony Muia called four witnesses, the three victims allegedly pepper sprayed, and one police officer.
Three men pulled up to the intersection at Nees and Blackstone avenues on May 18, 2021. They allegedly got into a heated argument over the Palestine-Israel issue with Turner, who was stopped next to them. The incident, they testified, escalated to profanity-laced shouting, one man getting out of his car waving the Palestinian flag, and then Turner pepper spraying them.
The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office charged Turner with three counts of illegally using pepper spray, with hate crime enhancements.
Grounds for Disqualifying Judges
According to state code, a judge could be disqualified on several grounds, including — bias or prejudice or a lack of the ability to be impartial; personal knowledge of the facts of the case; or a familial relationship with someone in the case.
Harrell has served as a Fresno County Superior Court judge since 2007. He was recently re-elected for a six-year term in 2022.