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Defense seeks to dismiss murder charge

Nov. 03, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Defense attorneys for Teresa Baker believe four years of delay is too long and argue that is basis enough to dismiss a murder charge against their client.

Baker, 56, stands charged with the Feb. 4, 2008, Cedar Street killing of Jeffrey D. Sadler. The defense maintains Baker fired the fatal shot to protect her daughter, who Sadler had threatened to "gut" with a knife during a domestic dispute. Baker initially called 911 from her next-door residence and waited an hour for police, but they never responded. She said she then shot Sadler in her daughter's defense.

A defense motion, filed in mid-October, seeks an indefinite dismissal, arguing officials have violated Baker's right to a jury trial within a year and a few months of her initial indictment.

Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles opposes any dismissal, alleging the defense has been complicit in delaying the case. He argued Friday his side's preparation was delayed by defense attorneys who failed to hand over a June 2010 DNA test result until just this week.

Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson will hear further arguments about the matter Nov. 26.

The attorneys' spat is the latest in a series of arguments which have prevented Baker's case from going to trial. Other issues have included the clarity of audio recordings and allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

The case also stalled earlier this year when Baker's initial defense attorney, Charlie Hatcher, died. His son, Chad Hatcher, and an Ohio attorney are now representing her.

DNA testing has been a matter of debate since at least December 2009. The limited amount of collected DNA rendered it nearly impossible for opposing experts to analyze the sample, which prompted the defense to insist upon an independent analysis. Payment issues then further complicated matters.

Hatcher told the court Friday their argument for dismissal is not wholly dependent upon DNA. Instead, his side's motion for dismissal outlines six unexcused postponements dating back to the initial September 2008 indictment.

Chiles argued the defense has a flawed counting method as the clock would start with Baker's third indictment, which was returned in May 2010. He said any inclusion of prior indictments would require court transcripts from September 2008 to June 2010. That could further delay Baker's trial, now scheduled for jury selection on Dec. 17.

The prosecution has believed DNA could prove Sadler was pistol whipped or standing very close to his attacker during the incident, which could negate any defense-of-another argument.