Trial date approaches for former astronaut charged in fatal wreck

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The long-running case of a former NASA Space Shuttle commander charged with reckless murder may soon make it to court.

It has been nearly 3 and a half years since a wreck on U.S. 82 claimed the lives of two girls, 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler, and injured two other family members.

James Halsell, who flew five shuttle missions, was charged with reckless murder and assault, DUI.

A lawsuit related to the girls' deaths was settled in 2017, but the criminal case is unresolved.

Halsell currently has a trial date set for December 9.

But his lawyers are asking the judge to continue the case, citing the number of pre-trial motions they plan to file.

The prosecution has also taken exception to a recent statement by the defense, arguing that Halsell is innocent of the charges against him.

Prosecutors asked the court to admonish Halsell’s lawyers and impose a gag order. The defense says the remarks were consistent with Halsell’s plea of not guilty.

The judge hasn’t ruled either the motion to continue the trial or the gag order.

The charges against Halsell allege he was under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance at the time of the crash.

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