Thousands of retrials possible on former Baumgartner cases

Thousands of retrials possible on former Judge Baumgartner cases

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Former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner Former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner

By JESSA LEWIS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There's potential for much more fallout from the downfall of ex-Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner.

His addiction to pain pills means a number of people convicted in his courtroom will get new trials.

That includes the four defendants in the Christian-Newsom murders. Most recently Paul Jerome Johnson, Jr., learned he'll get a new trial after being convicted in the death of a toddler.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of guilty pleas accepted in Baumgartner's courtroom could face re-trial.

"Literally, I could be talking about 1,000 cases. So it is very, very serious, not only in the manpower that it will take, the expense that the taxpayers will have to bear," said Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols.

For the defendants who entered a guilty plea before the judge, but not a jury, "Guilty pleas are done by a very strict set of questions and answers. The judge does a lot to guarantee someone's rights. So 44 trials, but there are hundreds maybe even thousands of guilty pleas taken during this time period," said LMU assistant professor of law Richard L. Gaines.

Witnesses would have to be called back.

"I think any witness that took part in that, subpoenaed or not, would be more than willing to come back and testify. Now will they testify to exactly the same thing? Will the defense attorneys change their strategy? Will the prosecutors change their strategy? That's what happens in a retrial sometimes. It doesn't get tried exactly the same," Gaines added.

Nichols says he's still trying to appeal for a hearing on the matter. "If we could get a hearing and a court would speak, then it would at least bring clarity to the situation. Am I going to have to re-try them? If so, then let's get on with it," he said.

Nichols says these convictions and pleas are legal. "I believe the law supports the validity of these convictions. That's what I believe, and I intend to argue that until my last breath," he said.

The DA has until May 14 to file an appeal in the matter.

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