Defense lawyers for Carl Wayne Buntion, whose death penalty retrial is set to start next week, want to postpone the case - or get a special prosecutor.
They didn't file the 11th-hour request because of a surprise witness or new evidence.
The lawyers say there is no way their client can get a fair trial, because employees of the Harris County District Attorney's Office have been tainted - they've been asked questions by the FBI and Texas Rangers.
"Mr. Buntion is entitled to be prosecuted by a District Attorney and assistant district attorneys who are neither witnesses in nor targets of a criminal prosecution," reads a motion to suspend prosecution or appoint a special prosecutor.
The request, signed by Buntion's attorneys Casey Keirnan and Phillip Scardino, was filed Wednesday a day after media reports began to emerge that law enforcement officials have been talking to district attorney employees about allegations the office investigated the grand jurors who for 6 months investigated her office.
Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos has said she asked her chief investigator to do an "internet search" into possible political connections between grand jurors, 2 judges and a political opponent of the district attorney.
She has said it was not an "investigation."
Lawyers for Buntion immediately seized on the news to try change the landscape of the coming trial.
Jurors are expected to spend about 3 weeks hearing evidence before deciding whether Buntion should be executed for gunning down Houston police officer James Irby during a traffic stop in 1990.
The punishment phase of several death penalty cases, including Buntion's, are being retried because jury instructions used in those cases were later deemed unconstitutional.
Keirnan was part of the team defending John Edward Green, who was slated to be tried for a 2008 capital murder.
In 2010, the team filed a sheaf of boilerplate motions including one that the procedures surrounding the death penalty in Texas was unconstitutional, which a judge granted.
The legal wrangling lasted more than a year.
On the eve of the death penalty trial, Lykos agreed to a plea bargain for 40 years in prison.
(source: Houston Chronicle)