Siler defense team moves for recusal and dismissal; both denied

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By Susan Sharp

When Jenny Siler’s trial starts, she can’t say her lawyers didn’t try to get it postponed.

Because try they did on Monday.

Taking nearly two hours to argue a myriad of motions, Herb Moncier flanked by Kristi Anderson, attempted to not only postpone the narcotics trial but also have the charges dismissed altogether.

However, before he made that move, Moncier wanted to know exactly what cards prosecutors were holding and how they intended to play them.

“I don’t know what stuff the state intends to offer,” Moncier said opening his arguments. Senior Assistant District Attorney Mike Ripley said his office had provided Moncier with an inventory of evidence and that was what they planned to offer. Citing state law, Moncier said that wasn’t good enough, he wanted more details on the prosecution’s case. Specifically he wanted to know if Ripley planned to introduce statements made by Siler’s co- defendant and one time boyfriend, Jamie Jones because if so, he wanted to move to suppress them.

Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton asked Ripley if statements from Jones would be coming into play at trial. Ripley said while he was not ruling it out, the statements would not be the lynchpin of his case.

Noting that his next argument had not been drafted, Moncier said he wanted to argue for a dismissal at that moment.

According to him, Siler’s rights had been violated as this case made its way through the judicial system.

When she was arrested in June on drug charges, Siler was out on bail awaiting a decision from the state criminal court of appeals in another narcotics case. Following the June arrest, Sexton revoked her bail. However, he stipulated that if more time elapsed with Siler behind bars than the four months she had originally been sentenced to as she awaited disposition in this case, she was to be released.

Moncier told the court his client had been held five months, not four, so in essence Siler had “been punished” for the June charges already. “She was held in violation of the Tennessee Constitution,” Moncier said. “There is no remedy for her.”

According to him, when Siler’s bond from her previous case was revoked it resulted in her being punished for the current case so to move forward would be invoking jeopardy.

With Ripley objecting to Moncier not providing a written copy of his motion, Sexton noted Moncier had filed numerous motions in the case, with some of them not containing new information. Moncier asked the court for a day to hear all of the motions, which was denied.

Circling back to his evidence argument Moncier said he would also be asking the court to exclude any lab reports pertaining to items found and tested in the case.

With discrepancies in what could and could not be introduced at trial, Sexton said some of the issues could be handled during the trial.

This brought Moncier’s next motion to the table; he wanted the case moved out of Campbell County. Citing a petition filed in Siler’s previous case that contained the signatures of 1,200 county citizens, Moncier hypothesized how many people might share the views of those 1,200. His claim to Sexton was that Siler could not find an unbiased jury in Campbell County.

Noting that a new jury had just been seated for the term Sexton said he had seen juries in this county try cases of great consequence and he had faith in them. Telling Moncier if the jury pool appeared “tainted” Sexton said he would address the concern at a later time.

Not stopping there, Moncier asked Sexton to step down from the case. He then posed a question to the judge, “Why is this case on the fast track.”

Leaning forward, pointing his finger, Sexton told Moncier it was because he had asked for it to move quickly and had yet to file anything to the contrary.

Moncier said he now wanted a continuance.

That was the first mention of postponing the case, Sexton said.

“This court has met the schedule of the defendant. This case was scheduled by you all,” Sexton said still leaning in. “I have done exactly what you all wanted.”

Moncier agreed he had wanted things to move along but that was before Siler was released from jail now with her out of jail, a delay was fine.

When Moncier cited another judge stepping down in Siler’s pending civil suit, Sexton was unphased. “There is no basis for me to recuse myself,” he said.

With those items taken care of the judge asked Moncier to revisit the allegations that Siler’s rights had been hampered.

Again citing the time she was held in jail during the later part of 2009, Moncier said Siler was “punished before her trial” when prosecutors didn’t release her after she had served her four months.

“They have their pound of flesh,” Moncier said sitting down.

Ripley disagreed.

He said Siler had no constitutional right to be on bail pending her appeal.  

Sexton said he was denying the request to dismiss the charges in Siler’s case and the case would be tried today.