Crime

Attorneys Want DA To Recuse Himself From 2019 Murder Case Because of Social Media Posts

The social media policy for the District Attorney's Office states, in part, “No employee of the District Attorney’s Office shall post, share or comment on social media about matters pending in the District Attorney’s Office."
The social media policy for the District Attorney's Office states, in part, “No employee of the District Attorney’s Office shall post, share or comment on social media about matters pending in the District Attorney’s Office." Dallas County District Attorney's Office
Lawyers for Zephaniah “Zephi” Trevino, a North Texas teen accused of taking part in a 2019 robbery that left one man dead, are asking Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot to remove himself from her prosecution. Trevino's attorneys say Creuzot revealed bias when he shared a social media post from the lawyer for one of her codefendants, who denies her claim that she was a victim of sex-trafficking and coerced into taking part in the crime.

Last month, actress Jamie Lee Curtis placed a full-page ad in The Dallas Morning News in defense of Trevino. David Finn, the lawyer for one of her codefendants, responded by sharing details of the case on social media and countering the claims in Curtis' ad. Trevino’s attorneys, Justin Moore and Ashkan Mehryari, cannot discuss details Finn shared because of juvenile confidentiality laws in Texas. For the same reason, the district attorney can’t discuss the case.

But Creuzot shared Finn’s post outlining his contention that Trevino instigated the robbery. Trevino’s attorneys say this violated Creuzot's own social media policy and showed bias, so they want him to appoint a special prosecutor.

"The issue here is that we want a DA that is unbiased, that looks at each case on the merits, that doesn’t tilt the scale of justice to one person or the other," Moore said. "[Creuzot] sponsoring David Finn’s Facebook post clearly does that and violates that rule. ... The reason it’s also a problem is that David Finn has gone on record and stated that he has a great friendship and relationship with this district attorney."

Creuzot said his office couldn’t comment. His office's social media policy states, in part, “No employee of the District Attorney’s Office shall post, share or comment on social media about matters pending in the District Attorney’s Office, or which could come before the District Attorney’s Office for consideration, review or prosecution.” Creuzot signed the policy in June 2020.
click to enlarge DA John Creuzot shared Finn’s post outlining his case theory. - FACEBOOK SCREENSHOT
DA John Creuzot shared Finn’s post outlining his case theory.
Facebook Screenshot
In August 2019, 24-year-old Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo was shot dead and another person wounded at a Grand Prairie apartment complex during a botched robbery.

Trevino was there, as were Philip Baldenegro and Jesse Martinez, authorities say. Baldenegro and Martinez have already been charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery, and prosecutors are working to certify Trevino, 16 at the time of the shooting, for trial as an adult.  If convicted, Trevino could receive life without parole. She turns 18 in February.

Trevino’s family and legal team say she was used to lure in the two victims with promises of sex with the underage teen.

The case gained national attention after being highlighted by celebrities and featured on the Wrongful Conviction Podcast. A change.org petition in support of Trevino has amassed over 360,000 signatures.

Finn, however, says the sex trafficking claims are “bullshit" and Trevino orchestrated the robbery.

He says his client, Baldenegro, shot Morillo as he fought back, but Trevino might as well have pulled the trigger because she set up the crime. Communications on Trevino's phone and interviews with her friends offer evidence this is true, Finn says.

He calls the sex trafficking defense "a charade to get the lawyers paid." More than $100,000 was raised through a Directly To campaign to cover Trevino's legal fees.

Even so, he says her attorneys would make a mistake if they got Creuzot, who's seen as a progressive prosecutor, to recuse himself and appoint someone else to handle the case. "That is their worst nightmare," Finn says. "[Creuzot] is not the redneck DA who's bloodthirsty and that's just looking to hammer somebody."

But Moore isn't buying it. "It’s one thing for this DA who is claiming to be progressive to prosecute this child as an adult, and further victimize her. That’s just a man not making good on his self-proclaimed ideology," Moore said of Creuzot. "But it’s even more outrageous for him, out of spite of the negative reactions he’s getting to his heavy-handed prosecution of this child, to brazenly show his bias for the man who was exploiting her and murdered one of the pedophiles."

In a post on social media, Moore urged people to call the DA's office to let Creuzot know "what he is doing is not OK."
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn