HOUSTON — A judge ruled Monday that the lawsuit brought against Baylor University by the father of slain basketball player Patrick Dennehy must be moved from Harris County to McLennan County, where the school is located.
State District Judge Bruce D. Oakley stated that trying the case in Harris County (Houston), where it was filed, would be inconvenient for witnesses and parties to the suit, many of whom live in Waco, where Baylor is located.
Although attorneys for Patrick Dennehy Sr. acknowledged that they are concerned about the impartiality of jurors hearing a case against Baylor in Waco, they said they are ready to move forward with the suit.
“This just makes it an away game instead of a home game,” attorney Richard Laminack said. “We have to go play on the defendants’ home court.”
Dennehy’s body was found near a gravel pit southeast of Waco on July 25 after he had been missing for nearly six weeks. A autopsy found that he had been shot twice in the head.
Former Baylor player Carlton Dotson has been charged with Dennehy’s slaying. A plea of not guilty was entered on Dotson’s behalf last week after he was extradited to Waco from Chestertown, Md., where he had been in custody since his arrest on July 21.
In the suit, Patrick Dennehy Sr. says his son became the target of threats after deciding to expose irregularities in the Baylor basketball program, and was subsequently”lured to his death” by an unidentified teammate.
In addition to the university, defendants include Board of Regents Chairman Drayton McLane Jr., university President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and former head basketball coach Dave Bliss.
Attorneys Laminack and Daniel Cartwright, both of Houston, filed the suit on behalf of the elder Dennehy, who lives in Tacoma, Wash. The legal basis for filing the suit in Harris County was the fact that McLane, whose primary residence is in Temple, owns the Houston Astros baseball team and maintains an apartment in Houston.
The defendants asked the court to transfer the case to McLennan County.
Laminack and Cartwright also tried previously to have Oakley, who has undergraduate and law degrees from Baylor, recuse himself from the case.
Laminack said the ruling on where the case will be heard means that he and Cartwright will soon begin the discovery process, which had been delayed because of the question of venue.
“We had to get past this before the nuts and bolts of the lawsuit could move forward,” Laminack said.
In a “Fort Worth Star-Telegram” story published on Saturday, Cartwright stated that investigators working for him and Laminack found evidence indicating that Dotson did not kill Dennehy. He declined to make the evidence public, citing the need to protect the identities of witnesses who will give sworn testimony.
After Monday’s hearing, Laminack was again reticent. Asked whether he or Cartwright had spoken to authorities regarding the findings of their investigation, he said: “Not directly. But I think it’s fair to say attempts to take information to … law enforcement have been made.”
Citing ties between Baylor and the McLennan County district attorney’s office, Laminack said he would like to see the Texas Rangers take over the criminal investigation.
“I have no reason” to believe something improper has occurred, Laminack said. “I just want to bring in the Texas Rangers, who are above reproach. I mean, they are the best investigators in the world.”