Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Prosecutorial misconduct alleged in murder case retrial

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 6:33 AM

click to enlarge PROSECUTOR CHESSHIR: Subpoenas reporter Leveritt.
  • PROSECUTOR CHESSHIR: Subpoenas reporter Leveritt.
Mara Leveritt is following events in Ashdown where a retrial is to begin Thursday of Tim Howard in a 1999 double slaying overturned in 2013 while he was on Death Row.

The defense has filed multiple motions arguing that the charge should be dismissed for reasons beginning with evidence improperly withheld in Howard's first trial. The prosecution is also attempting to call Leveritt as a witness because of her reporting on the case for the Arkansas Times. That could make her coverage of the trial impossible.

In the first motion alleging misconduct, Howard’s attorneys claimed that Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Chesshir had not provided them with required evidence, such as a coroner’s report, crime scene photos and police interviews. That motion also argued that subjecting Howard to a second trial after the state had engaged in misconduct at his first trial amounted to double jeopardy. Yeargan denied that motion.

In a motion filed last week, defense attorneys charged that Chesshir was engaging in additional misconduct.

They asked the judge to dismiss the charges against Howard due to claims that Chesshir has abused his official powers by subpoenaing defense witnesses “to determine what their testimony will be at trial,” by “subjecting some of these witnesses to numerous prosecutor subpoenas to elicit information from them regarding their conversations with the defense team,” and by using the prosecutor subpoena to put witnesses in a room together, with an investigator and a prosecutor, to compare their testimony and to cajole answers from witnesses.”

According to the latest motion, one defense witness whom Chesshir subpoenaed subsequently told Howard’s attorneys “that he was unaware of many of the facts in the case until he heard it from the other witness who was being asked questions right in front of him.”

Another defense witness questioned by Chesshir reportedly “indicated that she felt as though the prosecutor was attempting to get her to adopt the version of events” that was outlined by her ex-husband, who was questioned with her.

Leveritt details a second subpoena she's received from Chesshir. Curious business. She could testify only to what she's written. Chesshir insists he's not (a typo in my original post left this unclear) trying to bar Leveritt from coverage. We'll see on that Thursday.


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