Trials & Litigation

Murder defendant loses jail cell computer over claims he worked on other inmates' cases

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After firing his lawyers and taking on his own defense in a capital murder case earlier this year, James Calvert argued that the prison law library was inadequate and persuaded a Texas judge to provide a laptop computer in his jail cell.

Calvert, who once was employed by law firms as a computer expert, was given a laptop to use two hours a day, five days a week, and the judge ordered that no one else could could access the machine, according to KLTV and KYTX. His access to the Internet was limited.

But a search of Calvert’s cell revealed that he had been using the computer to help other Smith County jail inmates with their cases, authorities said, and it was confiscated, KYTX reported.

Now Calvert is fighting to try to get his computer privileges back. Although he is representing himself, standby counsel has been appointed for him to consult with.

An earlier effort in which Calvert argued for an evidentiary hearing saying that he had been accused of the crime of practicing law without a license was unsuccessful, KLTV reported. The government said no hearing was needed, because Calvert had not been charged with such a crime, and the judge agreed.

At last report, a Monday hearing was ongoing before 241st District Judge Jack Skeen. The county’s district attorney, Matt Bingham, opened by arguing that Calvert has no legal right to computer access in his jail cell and has abused the privilege.

“That computer was to be used by him to prepare his defense in his capital murder case,” Bingham told the judge. “I think it’s abundantly clear he hasn’t done that.”

Calvert’s counterargument hasn’t yet been reported.

He is accused of shooting his ex-wife, Jelena Sriraman, to death in 2012.

Related coverage:

KLTV: “Smith Co. DA: Contents of Calvert’s computer ‘weird’”

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