Judge rules on Disqualification Order in Fenner case

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Prosecutor Garland Byers, Jr.

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. – Judge Marvin Pope heard the motions from both the Defense Attorney and the State in the Matthew Fenner case Thursday morning in Rutherford County Superior Court. The firm of Tomblin, Farmer and Morris P.L.L.C. and their associates are still disqualified as the Word of Faith Fellowship members’ attorneys in this matter. Two of the five defendants have already attained new attorneys.

Defense attorney Angela Beeker presented the arguments for reconsideration of the disqualifications of the Tomblin, Farmer, and Morris P.L.L.C. and their associates. Beeker outlined the changes in the case along the lines of waivers of conflicts, affidavits of testimony, and potential possible conflicts of interest inline with earlier filings by attorneys Beeker, Farmer and Morris.

Beeker’s mention of the Adam Bartley rejection of the State’s Plea Offer brought an objection by assistant district attorney Garland Byers, Jr. on grounds that Bartley’s attorney, Rob Denton, was not in court. The objection was overruled since the actual plea offer was not discussed.

Byers in his argument also reminded the judge that despite the judge instructing Joshua Farmer that he was off the case in a Wed. meeting, that Farmer served him two minutes afterwards with yet another document. The judge was already aware of the 5:01 p.m. Wed. filing.  [AdSense-A] Byers stated he only wanted to have this trial one time-do it the right time in the right way- and not have a conflict of interest emerge once they were in the trial process.

The judge in a dialogue with defense attorney Beeker regarding the validity of the Yelton case opinion (one where a father and son were both represented by the same attorney) in this case stated that his question was what would happen if a conflict arose in trial and whether that would generate a mistrial. Beeker conceded that the attorney would have to step down. A mistrial would result and there would be another trying of the case. Byers argued that the text from the statute was clear and governed the criminal case.

Judge Pope also asked whether having 3, 4, or 5 additional defendants would add to the probability that a conflict could emerge. Beeker affirmed that it would.

Beeker declared that the latest exhibits offered what the testimony of the defendants would be and stated that the defendants would never accept an offer. Assistant district attorney Byers countered that argument stating:

“This is an ongoing case. They  don’t know yet what the evidence is or what discovery may reveal. I’ve been a defense lawyer for 15 years and this makes me nervous. It’s a dangerous road to go down,” stated Byers.

In the issue of an appeal to the Disqualification Order , Judge Pope pointed out that the defense’s Aug. 20 appeal and the reconsideration of the order to disqualify were conflicting motions.  When a Notice to Appeal is given, it strips jurisdiction from the trial court to the appellate court. Pope questioned Beeker whether she was questioning his jurisdiction. Beeker replied she was simply trying to cover all her bases in the case. There are time limits as to when appeals can be filed. Byers argued the appeal was not eligible to be filed until there was a verdict given.

When Beeker could not retrieve a case to further her arguments, the judge gave her until noon to submit the paper. The following orders were filed today at 11:28 a.m.

No mention was made if Beeker will remain counsel to all three co-defendants or whether there will be another disqualification hearing.

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