Leader Blues

Monday, February 19, 2007

TOP STORY >> Defense wins one of three

Leader staff writer

Special Judge John Cole pushed the final pretrial hearing back to Feb. 26 with jury selection to start the next day in the continuing criminal-enterprise trial of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and two codefendants. That was the highlight for the defense at a pretrial hearing Friday in Cabot. It lost bids to disqualify Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and replace her with a special prosecutor or else to exclude certain witnesses against Campbell, his wife Kelly Harrison Campbell and bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox.

“They’ve been trying to disqualify me since way before the election,” said McCastlain of the defense. “They don’t get to choose the prosecutor.” Cole also said he probably would quash the defense subpoena for Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw—who has had conflicts in the past with McCastlain. Cole told Shannon Green of the state attorney general’s office, representing Hanshaw, that he didn’t believe Hanshaw would have to testify, but he said he would reserve judgment. “What I’ve heard so far has no place in the trial.”

Cole also ruled against a defense motion of limine, which would have prevented McCastlain from trying or mentioning the sexually related charges against Kelly Campbell. She is charged with having sexual relations with at least two inmates. “If introduced, it has a huge prejudicial impact,” said attorney, Mark Hampton. He said it could taint the jury’s perception oft Kelly Campbell, who faces 36 other charges. Cole said that Kelly Campbell’s alleged sex crimes would be supportive of the continuing criminal enterprise charge against her. In denying the motion to liminie, Cole called the allegations “relevant and permissible.”

Patrick Benca told the court Hanshaw could testify that the prosecutor’s office may have listened into his telephone calls and also Campbell’s. “I don’t see how it’s relevant to the issue of guilt or innocence,” said Cole. The Campbells and Cox are being tried on a variety of charges, all under the umbrella of running and participating in an ongoing criminal enterprise. The chief is charged with running that enterprise and his wife and Cox with being members. Criminal enterprise convictions trigger longer sentences.

The Campbells are charged with various felony theft and drug charges. Kelly Campbell is also charged with having sex with inmates in her husband’s jail. Cox, Jay Campbell and bail bondsman Larry Norwood are charged with conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine. Norwood is being tried separately.

Attorneys Hampton and Benca told Cole that discovery, including evidence that is exculpatory, impeaches witnesses or is mitigating, has only trickled in from the prosecution and that at the minimum they needed more time to prepare.Benca said that his office had received about 15,000 pages of investigation and testimony, in-cluding 1,400 pages in the last few days. With the trial originally slated to begin Tuesday, “How am I going to prepare a defense? I haven’t even begun (reading) the 1,400 pages,” he asked. McCastlain objected that the defense was trying the case in the media, attempting bias the public, including the jury pool, against the state and in favor of the defendants.

Benca and Hampton, as they have for about a year, told the judge they were not getting all the Brady information from the prosecution. The defense gave several accounts of information they said they never received from the prosecution about, for instance, one witness being on psychiatric drugs, about Lonoke Police Detective David Huggs—a witness—having sexual relations with witness Rose Taylor in her mobile home while methamphetamine was being cooked, about witnesses changing their story and other concerns.

Benca said he had reviewed nine of the video taped interrogation of witnesses the prosecution was ordered to supply him last week and “without question there is Brady evidence” on most of the tapes that he had not been given earlier. McCastlain said the defense had all the information if it went thoroughly through the information it was given. The trial, which could last one to two months, will be held in the Cabot District Courtroom.