The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney was forced to drop murder charges and refile against a suspect after a Missouri judge refused to delay the trial.
A murder trial for a Warrenton man accused of killing an infant in 2015 was supposed to start Sept. 25.
Instead, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Kelly King said she was essentially forced to drop the original second-degree murder charge against Charles A. Holiday that was filed in 2018 and immediately refile them after Judge Jason Lamb refused to either approve a motion for a continuance or to exclude an expert witness from testifying.
“The state was ready to try the case,” King said.
She said her office had been preparing to try the case for several months.
But then on Sept. 6, Holiday’s attorney, Leah Wommack Chaney, notified King that she intended to call an expert witness.
King said that witness was a medical examiner, but the individual had not yet filed any reports or opinions. She said both she and Chaney found out later the report would not be available until Sept. 29, a full five days after the trial was scheduled to begin.
A message was left with Chaney asking for comment on this story, but it had not been returned as of the print deadline.
Because the expert had not yet provided any information, Chaney asked for a motion to continue the trial on Sept. 19.
Lamb, the presiding judge, denied the motion.
King then asked for the witness to be excluded on Sept. 22. Lamb, though, wouldn’t exclude the witness.
“I agree the defense is entitled to their expert, and if excluded, the case would likely come back on appeal,” King said. “He put me in a position where I was going to proceed to a murder trial without knowing what the defense evidence is. And, quite frankly, I think that would be irresponsible, in addition to insane.”
Instead, Lamb wanted to call in the jury pool and dismiss them every day until they were needed.
King said she was then forced to dismiss the charges and immediately refile the case. The defense agreed with this decision, she said.
“The defense attorney actually asked that I dismiss and refile because she did not have her expert’s report,” King said. “In my opinion, this is a travesty but I’m not going to trial without knowing that. I mean, we have the rules of discovery for a reason and the reason is that both parties get to examine the evidence and prepare for a trial and preparing for a murder trial with the jury either waiting or coming in any day of the week. That’s insane.”
A message was left with Lamb’s clerk asking for comment. She responded to say that judges are not allowed to comment on pending matters.
“It’s unfair to not let the defense present their expert testimony and it’s unfair to expect the state to go to trial without knowing what the evidence is,” King said.
She also said there’s no way to predict how long it could take for the case to make it back to a courtroom.
“I can tell you that I was ready to start this trial on Monday (Sept. 25),” King said. She said she’d be ready to proceed as soon as she receives the expert’s evidence.
But then there’s an additional wrinkle that King is leaving office Oct. 13 to take on her new role as a deputy Missouri attorney general, though she said she doesn’t believe that will slow the process.
“I wouldn’t think it would take too terribly long to prepare the case,” King said. “A lot of the work has already been done. But obviously, I’m not going to be here. I assume they’ll want their trial sooner than later.”
Lamb’s decision to proceed with the Holiday trial despite a request from both the defense and prosecution also caused a domino effect with other scheduled cases.
“There were several that were set for Monday (Sept. 25) that were dismissed and refiled,” King said – six in total. “When she disclosed the expert, I filed a motion asking to remove these others from the trial docket because one person cannot prepare for a murder case and five other jury trials. I mean, that’s impossible.
King said she asked Lamb to act.
“So I request a hearing on those motions,” King said. He did not give me a hearing. I requested a hearing twice. He just simply didn’t respond to my request. … I’ve been here 16 years and I’ve never seen something like this happen.”
Those trials have not yet been rescheduled.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at firstname.lastname@example.org