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Mishandling of file postpones murder trial

A Superior Court judge ordered the Eric Cornell Wilson murder trial postponed after it came to light that defense lawyer's notes ended up in the office of the district attorney.


The judge last week removed the Henderson County district attorney's office from the case and ordered the state attorney general to take over the prosecution.
District Attorney Greg Newman said he agreed with the judge's decision.
"Every time I think I've seen everything ... " he said. The defense notes contained information that was protected by attorney-client privilege, he said, and should have been withheld from the state.
"Even though they didn't know they were in there, it shouldn't have happened," Newman said of the notes.
Newman, appointed district attorney in July, was not in office when the file transfer occurred.
Wilson, who has a habit of serving as his own jailhouse lawyer, has fired three court-appointed defense attorneys on claims that they did not adequately investigate his alibi or protect his rights.
The release of the defense file to the prosecution came to light at least as far back as last April. Wilson said in a hand-written court filing that his attorney at the time, David Belser, "informed me of Mr. Todd W. Williams turning my file over to the Assistant District Attorney instead of turning it over to him." Wilson added that Belser "downplayed the issue of lawyer-client confidentiality."
Williams, who served as Wilson's first court-appointed lawyer along with Beth Stang, shed more light on what happened in an affidavit he filed a month ago.
Between the time Williams withdrew and Belser took over as Wilson's defense attorney, assistant district attorney Nathan Stallings came to the public defender's office "and represented that support staff of the DA's office was upset either because the DA's office could not locate Eric Wilson's file or that for some other reason DA support staff could not make a copy of the file before Mr. Belser's imminent arrival," Williams said in the sworn statement.
The public defender's office made a copy of the file. Stallings, who is no longer with the D.A.'s office, "did not indicate that a copy of the discovery materials would be made by the State and retained by the State for potential use at trial," Williams said.
Wilson, 43, is charged with kidnapping and murder in the death of Victoria Jon-Baptiste, who was found on Jan. 12, 2011, gagged and tied up with telephone cord at her house at 1119 Park St.
After police responded to the emergency call, the couple's 4-year-old daughter told Hendersonville police detective Bobbie Trotter that "Daddy tied Mommy up."
Michael Edney, Wilson's fourth attorney, said he expects the file snafu will delay the case for at least six months while lawyers for the state get up to speed.
"The DA's office went over there to pick up the file to give it to the next lawyer," he said. "None of that should have happened. But the fact that they made a copy of it meant that the judge had no choice but to recuse that D.A.'s office and assign it an independent prosecution. It would be impossible to say the man got a fair trial regardless of the outcome."