In just a few weeks, a disgraced former Knox County judge faces trial in federal court. Court documents submitted over the past two days are efforts by both sides to set some ground rules for trial. They cover everything from requests to exclude evidence, jury selection, and a last ditch effort by the defense to get the charges dropped altogether.
Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Richard Baumgartner with seven counts of misprision of a felony. That means he knew about a crime, but concealed it.
Among other issues, Baumgartner's attorneys, Don Bosch and Ann Short, continue to argue that the federal charges are a form of retaliation because Baumgartner gets to keep his pension, even after pleading guilty to one state count of "official misconduct," receiving judicial-diversion, and resigning from the bench.
The defense argues that the federal charges were not filed until after that fact became public, and after defendants in the "Christian-Newsom" murder convictions came in to question.
The defense is also asking that several pieces of evidence be excluded from trial. Those include several taped phone conversations between Baumgartner and Deena Castleman. Some of those recordings and transcripts are filed under seal, so it is unclear what they contain.
Defense attorneys also want the judge to prevent prosecutors from using information about Baumgartner's behavior on the bench during the "Christian-Newsom" murder trials in their case against him.
Another defense motion asks the judge to exclude what they consider "highly private information irrelevant to the charges in the case". It's unclear what that information contains; it was also filed under seal.
Finally, the defense also wants the judge to not allow prosecutors to use the phrase "doctor shopping" or introduce any evidence that Baumgartner participated in that activity. Their reasoning is because none of the seven counts against Baumgartner actually charge him with "doctor shopping."
Prosecutors have also filed a few motions of their own. They want the judge to prevent the defense from telling the jury they can acquit Baumgartner on grounds other than the facts. And, they do not want the defense to introduce evidence or argument about Baumgartner's "past good character".
Further, prosecutors reject a defense motion filed earlier this week to select the jury through questionnaires and interviews. In written response to the defense, prosecutors call that sort of selection process "unmerited" and "unduly invasive" to jurors' privacy.
Prosecutors have until Friday, October 5, 2012 to submit responses to the new defense motions. The final pre-trial hearing is set for next Tuesday, October 9. The trial itself begins in just under three weeks, on October 23rd.