We talked with a legal brain recently who thinks there is an outside chance an appeal could save some of the verdicts in four high-profile murder cases tainted by Judge Richard Baumgartner’s drug use. The defendants in the carjacking and double murder of Channon Christian/Christopher Newsom will get new trials unless an appeals court rules the trials were not constitutionally suspect.
There is a path to argue that, at least in the first three trials, Baumgartner’s drug use was not excessive but a result of his legal medication for pain from his pancreatic condition. The TBI report of the case, used to make a decision on Baumgartner’s guilty plea, is not evidence introduced at a trial and subject to defense cross examination—it was stipulated as evidence of wrongdoing by Baumgartner in the ruling for a new trial.
It may be argued that some evidence would have to be found in the trial transcripts that Baumgartner misruled as a result of his drug use.
The decision on the verdicts and new trials will likely wind up at the state Supreme Court. We’re sure it won’t matter, but it will likely be along about the time the justices are up for a retention vote in 2014.