Motion to recuse judge in funeral home trial denied

Defense attorneys wanted the judge to recuse herself in the trial of a former Fort Worth funeral home owner, but that didn't happen.

Dondre Johnson's theft trial took an unexpected turn after defense attorney Alex Kim filed a motion to recuse the trial judge, Elizabeth Beach. That motion was denied.

Johnson is on trial for theft.

He's accused of taking thousands of dollars from people who paid to have their loved ones cremated, then leaving eight bodies to decay after abandoning the Johnson Family Mortuary.

Kim raised several issues in the recusal hearing, including the decision by Judge Beach to remove attorney Devin Auclair from the defense table.

The judge told Kim it was over what she called Auclair's unprofessional and undignified conduct during the first day of testimony on Wednesday.

“She was talking loudly throughout the proceedings,” said Beach. “She was laughing, she was waving her arms around, she was turning around and talking to people in the gallery. She was passing papers back and forth to people in the gallery and she was causing a disruption for the entire day."

The trial was put on hold for most of Thursday because of the motion for recusal.

Testimony begins again on Friday.

Kim argued that Auclair was prepared to cross-examine several witnesses; he told the judge that’s something he'll have to do himself now without proper preparation.