James Staley's lawyers ask for change of venue, criticize DA, Justice for Wilder campaign

·5 min read
A Wichita County sheriff's deputy escorts James Irven Staley III from 89th District Court Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
A Wichita County sheriff's deputy escorts James Irven Staley III from 89th District Court Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.

Attorneys for the man accused of murdering 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel are seeking a change of venue, citing vigilante threats, news reports and social media while criticizing the Justice for Wilder campaign, the district attorney and other members of the law-enforcement community, court records show.

James Irven Staley III's lawyers filed the motion Wednesday in 30th District Court on the day of a pretrial hearing for the murder case.

The Wichita County District Attorney's Office has to file an opposition to the motion and evidence disputing the push for a change of venue before a May 10 hearing for the 38-year-old Okmulgee, Oklahoma, man's murder case.

Check back with www.timesrecordnews.com for more on this developing story.

Staley's lawyers also found much to criticize in Robert "Bubba" Charles McDaniel Jr., Wilder's father, in the motion seeking to persuade Senior District Judge Everett Young to move the trial to another county.

More: Staley accused of staging death scene in Wilder's murder

Bubba "disseminates vile and filthy language" threatening Staley and his lawyers on social media, according to allegations in the change of venue motion.

"I think anyone cut from my cloth can agree that Vigilante Justice given to those deserving of it makes me feel like that is when things go right in the world. . . . Our system of laws is so flawed," Bubba wrote in a Dec. 23, 2020, social media post included in the motion.

Jason Wilder McDaniel
Jason Wilder McDaniel

More: Bubba McDaniel arrested on stiffer charge for alleged road rage incident

As for the Justice for Wilder campaign, Staley's attorneys contend it fueled "unrest and criticism of the police and the district attorney that somehow two years had passed with no arrest," according to court records.

His attorneys said in the motion that the campaign effectively ramped up the pressure for an arrest no matter what the facts and evidence were.

More: Amber McDaniel indicted on charges related to son's death

In addition, the Justice for Wilder campaign, extensive negative publicity and community discussion tainted the pool of prospective jurors in Wichita County, making a fair trial impossible, according to the defense attorneys' motion.

Law enforcement officials believe Wilder was murdered Oct. 11, 2018, by James Irven Staley III in his Wichita Falls home, according to allegations in court documents.

Staley and Wilder's mother, Amber Nichole McDaniel, dated during a time when she wasn't with Bubba, according to court documents.

James Staley III
James Staley III

Officials say Wilder was smothered with a pillow in Staley's home in the 2000 block of Irving Place, according to allegations in court records.

In their motion, Staley's attorneys had a list of gripes and allegations against Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie.

They ranged from Gillespie wearing a Justice for Wilder cap, allegedly expert-shopping to push the case against Staley forward and, with Wichita Falls police Chief Manuel Borrego, inflaming the community by touting an expert during an Oct. 8, 2020, press conference, according to the defense motion.

In addition, defense attorneys took issue with the DA's dismissal of a misdemeanor terroristic threat charge against Bubba.

A probable cause affidavit attached to the motion alleges Bubba told officers on Oct. 26, 2018, he was going to kill Staley if he could find him. Others present told police Bubba was upset after learning new details about his son's death.

In addition, Bubba had posted a live social media video saying he was going to shoot Staley in the head and stab him, and that he was offering $10,000 to anyone who could tell him where Staley was, according to allegations in the affidavit.

The charge was dismissed "In the interest of justice," according to court documents.

Jason Wilder McDaniel is shown here with his mother, Amber McDaniel.
Jason Wilder McDaniel is shown here with his mother, Amber McDaniel.

Staley's attorneys contend Bubba's threats of violence "were indirectly condoned" by the DA's Office because prosecution wasn't pursued, according to the motion.

Two Wichita County residents furnished affidavits to support the request for a change of venue, but those documents are sealed because of concerns about retaliation, according to the defense motion.

Staley has been charged with capital murder of a person younger than 10 and felony first-degree murder in connection with Wilder's death.

Staley faces up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder, according to court documents.

A jury is expected to choose one of the two murder charges. Staley has pleaded not guilty to them.

He was later charged with injury to a child with intent to cause bodily injury and tampering/fabricating physical evidence in connection with the Wilder murder case, according to court documents.

Amber McDaniel
Amber McDaniel

He is accused of physically abusing Wilder and staging the death scene after the child's murder, according to allegations in court documents.

The charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Staley was free Thursday from Wichita County Jail on $1.25 million in bonds for the charges of murder, evidence tampering and injury to a child, according to online jail records.

Amber was charged with endangering a child because she brought Wilder around Staley, and she was charged with tampering with cell phone evidence, according to court records.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of tampering and up to two years in a state jail facility if convicted of child endangerment.

Amber was free Thursday from Wichita County Jail on $60,000 in bonds, according to online jail records.

More: Fourth judge takes over Wilder murder case

More: UPDATED: What moved Wilder case forward to Staley's arrest after two years? DA explains

Jason Wilder McDaniel is shown here with his father, Bubba McDaniel.
Jason Wilder McDaniel is shown here with his father, Bubba McDaniel.

Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news, politics and more. Contact Trish with news tips at tchoate@gannett.com. Her Twitter handle is @Trishapedia.

This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: James Staley's attorneys seek change of venue, cite vigilante threats

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