Reliably Austin
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lehmberg Civil Trial Underway (Update)

Kelly West/MCT /Landov
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, left, talks to attorney Dan Richards before the start of her civil trial Monday, Dec. 9.

Update: Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg has been testifying since this morning in what is Day Two of her civil trial.

It’s been slow-going, stop and go with technicalities. Both the prosecution and the defense teams are very experienced attorneys, aware what’s at stake is the job of the highest-ranking prosecutor in Travis County.

Sometimes questions seem to repeat themselves, except for a word or two. The situation became so hard to process that visiting Judge David Peeples asked prosecutors at one point, “Can you come up with something new?” and “Are you going somewhere with this?”

When prosecutors responded they were, Judge Peeples replied “Well, get there.”

The trial is scheduled to last until the end of the week. The decision to remove or to keep Lehmberg on the job will be up to Judge Peeples. 

Update (Dec. 10): It’s Day Two in the civil trial of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

Throughout the trial’s first day, a host of witnesses testified for the prosecution, recounting the events leading to Lehmberg’s booking at the Travis County Jail and what happened while she was in custody. 

Witnesses, including the sheriff’s deputy who pulled her over, described Lehmberg driving erratically, being arrested and booked and how she behaved in custody. The stories were not new. Lehmberg’s arrest was widely documented by most media outlets earlier this year.

That’s why, after the last witness of the day left the stand, presiding Judge David Peeples spent a few minutes telling prosecutors he didn’t understand how their witnesses’ testimony could prove that Rosemary Lehmberg was a future threat to the public.

“You are basically asking me to make a prediction,” Judge Peeples told prosecutors. To that, they responded their lineup of witnesses is still incomplete and that they would prove their point on Tuesday.

Testifying for the defense via video was Dr. Nia Sipp, the doctor who treated Lehmberg at an Arizona rehab facility after her release from jail earlier this year.

As an experienced prosecutor herself, Lehmberg was able to keep her emotions in check through most of the day. But there was a moment during her doctor’s deeply personal testimony in which Lehmberg’s eyes teared up.

San Antonio-based Judge Peeples will decide – possibly by the end of the week – whether Lehmberg can keep her job as Travis County D.A.

Original story (Dec. 9): Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s civil trial began this morning.

At issue is not whether Lehmberg was driving under the influence – the D.A. pleaded guilty to that charge and she's subsequently been jailed and released. At issue today is whether Lehmberg's  performance as D.A. could be considered a public threat that may hurt the public’s interest. If a visiting judge from San Antonio decides that’s the case, he can remove her from her position. 

James Collins is the prosecutor in the case. He said Rosemary Lehmberg’s actions on the night of April 12 should not be taken as a snapshot, but as one frame in a movie. He argued this morning that the entire movie will show Lehmberg’s actions are a public threat.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Dan Richards is looking for inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses. His mission is to show that Rosemary Lehmberg is – in his words – “an exemplary public servant.” 

The trial could last up to a week. If Judge David Peeples rules the DA should be removed from her job, Texas Governor Rick Perry would need to appoint a replacement within 30 days.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
Related Content