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Presiding Circuit Judge
Twenty-first Judicial Circuit of Alabama
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Bert W. Rice
The Honorable Bert Wayne Rice is the Presiding Circuit Judge of the Twenty-first Judicial Circuit of Alabama, Escambia County. Judge Rice is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law (J.D.) and has been licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama since 1974.
In a ruling two weeks after the escape, Escambia County Circuit Judge Bert Rice said he saw "no impropriety" on the part of the district attorney's office, but removed the members from the case.
"I see no violation or prejudice at this point to the defendant," Rice said. Last month, Floyd's attorneys filed a change of venue motion, arguing their client could not receive a fair trial in Escambia County, due to extensive media coverage, but Rice dismissed the motion until a jury could be struck. Rice told the attorneys that changing the venue for the trial likely would not happen - unless potential jurors questioned in the selection process indicated that a fair and impartial conclusion could not be made in the case against Floyd. Floyd's case has been continued a number of times, but, in August, Rice said it would begin in September. "We will not be constrained by time," Rice said.
The Honorable Bert W. Rice
Circuit Court Judge
Wallington and Watson were appointed to the case after Circuit Judge Bert Rice removed the Escambia County District Attorneys from prosecuting any cases against Floyd.
In the action taken in November 2012, Rice agreed that current assistant district attorneys had in fact represented Floyd in previous cases as public defenders. In Circuit Judge Bert Rice's instructions to the jury, jurors were asked to render a verdict of guilty or not guilty on either a first-degree or third-degree charge of promoting prison contraband.
But Escambia County Circuit Judge Bert Rice does not believe that's the only reason the court will see a crowded docket when the next criminal jury term begins March 12.
Rice said the upcoming court schedule has as many violent crimes and sexual offenses as any docket he has seen, including several from the Atmore area. "It's going to be a busy docket," Rice said. Rice said there have been some changes to the court's process concerning dockets in 2012 that will have an effect on the number of cases coming before judges, but he added that the change in jury terms is far from the main reason for the large number of violent offenses scheduled to be heard. "What we did is that we reduced (jury terms) from eight down to seven," Rice said. "We made this one coming up a two-week term. What we're doing is using the same number of jurors except that we are keeping them longer." Rice said the change in jury terms is the result of a budget concession and should not cause much change in how the courts address up coming dockets. Rice said the minor adjustments to the terms do, however, play a small role in this month's crowded docket. And as the year progresses, Rice said more cases from the Atmore area will continue to roll in, including the case of a November house fire that resulted in the death of three young children and murder charges for 18-year-old twin mothers Akeevia and Tekeevia Abner. Both women are currently awaiting a decision to be handed down after filing for youthful offender status last week during a scheduled arraignment. Rice said the women are scheduled to come before a judge in early May for a decision and added that applying for a youthful offender status is simply part of the legal process in Alabama for anyone age 18 through 20 who is facing charges.