All county judges pulled from officers’ case

Published 12:31 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Montgomery attorney Julian McPhillips is facing yet another setback in his effort to exonerate the twice-indicted Selma Police Department (SPD) officers – Dallas County Circuit Court Judge Marvin Wiggins has been pulled from the case following a filing from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, which means all three of the local judges have now been removed from the case.

“It’s just a whole lot of racism,” McPhillips said of the Attorney General’s move to have the third local judge pulled from the case. “It’s just doing increasingly harmful, irreparable damage to these officers.”

Dallas County Circuit Court Judge Collins Pettaway was forced to recuse himself from the case after ruling the officers’ favor earlier this year, a decision which set the stage for the officers’ second indictment only weeks after the first was tossed out.

McPhillips said Pettaway tried to resist removing himself from the case but was ultimately forced to withdraw.

The case was then passed to Dallas County Circuit Court Judge Don McMillan, who willingly recused himself and passed the case to Wiggins.

McPhillips raised concerns over Wiggins recusal during a recent press conference, but the increased attention to the case proved of no use.

With all of Dallas County’s judges removed from the case, McPhillips said the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts will be tasked with finding a replacement judge, who McPhillips said will likely be a retired judge from North Alabama.

“I think they’re going to try to find an older, white male judge,” McPhillips said. “It’s just a mess, it’s just wrong.”

While McPhillips noted that the Alabama Attorney General’s Office is not supposed to play a hand in selection of the new judge, McPhillips said the office will likely “have influence behind the scenes.”

For now, there is no dateline for when a new judge will be selected or when hearings will resume in the case and McPhillips asserts the three officers continue to suffer.

“They can’t really apply for other jobs, particularly in law enforcement, with this hanging over their heads,” McPhillips said. “It’s just a really bad thing.”