Barton murder case delayed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2015

Judge grants access to medical records, appoints new attorney

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan on Wednesday granted defense attorneys representing two people accused in the murder of James “Nibby” Barton access to the medical history of a third defendant’s medical history that is alleged to include treatment for schizophrenia.


Eugene Black and Shelia Williams, whose cases have been consolidated for one trial, were scheduled for trial next week, but McKathan also granted a continuance in the case after Williams’ defense attorney, David Baker, withdrew.

Black and Williams, along with Sandra Ellision Lynn, are each charged with murder and robbery I in the 1994 murder of James “Nibby” Barton.

Last week, Montgomery attorney Peter Bush, who represents Black, and David Baker, who represented Williams, asked for the medical history. Baker explained that Ms. Lynn’s physician, who had compiled a medical record for the court, has cancer and has closed his practice.

Bush said Lynn previously has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which he believes is relevant to her potential testimony, as well as her previous testimony to the grand jury.

Last week, McKathan advised the attorneys to subpoena the record from Lynn’s attorney. The judge ordered that the record be produced, but gave Lynn’s attorney, Gypsy Smith, 48 hours to object.

Smith did object in court, and asked that parts of the report be redacted. However, after looking at the parts Smith wanted redacted, McKathan said the attorneys needed all of the report.

He did, however, also issue a protective order limiting the use of the information to the court case.

Meanwhile, Baker, who was appointed to represent Williams, had entered a motion to withdraw from the case.

“After the list of witnesses and subpoenas went out, I discovered I had a former client, whom I represented in a custody matter and three years after that, who is a witness for the state.

“Nothing about this case was involved,” Baker said. “However, I have confidential information could be used to impeach him.”

Witness impeachment, in the law of evidence of the United States, is the process of calling into question the credibility of an individual who is testifying in a trial.

Baker said his information was not readily gained in public or from another source.

“And because he is now going to be a witness for the state, I could not use it to impeach,” Baker said. “So I am in a quandary.”

He said he had discussed the matter at length with the Bar Association and has been advised to withdraw.

McKathan granted that motion, then set out to appoint a new attorney for Williams. As he went down the list, he asked the three attorneys in the courtroom – Smith, Baker and Walt Merrell – if they were aware of conflicts potential attorneys had in the case.

Corey Bryan, Chris Sledge, Rod Sylvester, Larry Grissett, Mark Christiansen, Bill Alverson, and Deb Smith were each said to have conflicts.

McKathan appointed Trey Burgess to represent Williams, and continued the case. He did not set a new date.