Houston judge under fire over ‘snarky comment’ in notorious murder-for-hire case

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A Houston judge is under fire for a “snarky comment” in a highly-publicized murder-for-hire case that defense lawyers argue means the judge cannot be fair and impartial.

State District Judge Jim Wallace on Thursday denied a motion to recuse himself for a comment he made in the case against Leon Phillip Jacob.

Jacob, a 39-year-old failed doctor, was arrested earlier this year on a charge of solicitation of capital murder with prominent Montrose veterinarian Dr. Valerie Busick McDaniel, who killed herself March 27.

The couple were arrested after investigators say they paid an undercover police officer posing as a hitman to kill their exes. During the exchange, Jacob was already free on bail after being arrested for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, so the judge refused to set bail in the new case.

The disputed comment came during a hearing in March on Jacob’s request for bond. When defense attorney George Parnham argued that Jacob cared about the ex-girlfriend, the judge responded, “I mean, that’s why you hire a hitman.”

“Judge Wallace’s comment was snide and in flagrant disregard to the defendant’s fundamental protection of his presumed innocence,” Jacob’s attorney wrote in the motion for recusal filed last week. “It further reveals Judge Wallace’s own personal prejudice towards this case.”

Parnham also called the retort a “snarky comment.”

In a closed hearing in the judge’s quarters Thursday, Wallace denied the motion.

Parnham said he will appeal the ruling to the region’s administrative judge, Olen Underwood.

Jacob remains in the Harris County jail without bail. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison.


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