WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) – The legal defense team for a man charged with the 2018 murder of a Wichita Falls infant has explained the reasons for a change of location for the impending trial, which , they say, is the “only responsible course of action.”
James Irvin Staley, III, is charged with the murder and abuse of 2-year-old Wilder McDaniel in 2018. He also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.
In January 2022, Staley’s attorney filed the original motion to change venue at a preliminary hearing, stating that Staley would not receive a fair trial in Wichita County.
Another change of venue hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, June 21, 2022, but was canceled due to illness among the defense team.
Staley’s attorney on Tuesday submitted a legal brief summarizing their case for a change of venue to Tarrant County Senior District Judge Everett Young, the fourth designated judge after the first three recused themselves for various reasons.
The defense claims in the brief that there are “a plethora of compelling reasons” for the court to change location, chief among them being Wilder McDaniel’s father, UFC fighter Bubba McDaniel.
The memoir states that “Bubba McDaniel is a very violent man” and mentions a time when McDaniel testified in open court that he would commit acts of violence against Staley.
Staley’s attorney also referenced an incident that occurred weeks after Wilder’s death in which McDaniel was arrested after threatening Staley on social media and offered to “pay anyone $10,000. could provide him with Staley’s contact details.”
The defense also cited his current probation sentence stemming from an August 2020 incident in which McDaniel fired a gun at an occupied vehicle.
The brief claims that a change of location would allow the court to “eliminate the risk that Bubba McDaniel presents to this trial,” saying the Wichita County Courthouse’s one-way configuration maximizes McDaniel’s potential or “his supporters” to influence or intimidate jurors or witnesses.
The brief also mentions in the brief what Staley’s attorney calls “pervasive negative, inflammatory and prejudicial publicity,” referring to the Justice for Wilder campaign and extensive media coverage as reasons for a venue change.
The defense argued that the jury lacked the ability to be fair and impartial due to media coverage creating bias and prejudice against Staley.
As of Wednesday June 22, the fate of the location of the cases remains unclear.
These complaints in the defense team’s brief largely echo statements made in previous hearings.
In May 2022, defense attorneys said press conferences called by police and Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie had also added to the intense interest in the case and that Gillespie had made inappropriate statements and published information still under investigation.
Wichita Falls Police Department Chief Manuel Borrego said it’s not uncommon to hold a news conference about arrests in major cases.
Staley’s attorneys said the case has received more extensive and damaging media and social media coverage than any local case in years.
Bubba McDaniel was questioned by the defense about the number of posters, signs and shirts made for the Justice For Wilder campaign and the protests outside the courthouse reported by the media.