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Friday, April 4, 2008

Johnson denies disqualifications in Weaver retrial

Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Gregg Johnson has denied a defendant’s motion to disqualify the Ramsey County Attorney’s office and the entire county bench from the murder trial of Gordon Weaver.

Weaver was convicted was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1999 death of his wife, Jean. But last July, the Minnesota Court of Appeals granted him a new trial, saying the trial court judge shouldn't have allowed testimony about blood-test results after they were destroyed. The blood test would show if Jean Weaver died in an accidental fall or as a result of a fire that Weaver set.

Prosecutors have said that information about the person who tested Jean Weaver's blood and the machine used to measure her carbon monoxide levels was lost and later found. Defense attorney Joe Friedberg has said that prosecutors knew about that evidence but sat on it until Weaver's conviction was overturned. He also said that Ramsey County District Court Judge Joanne Smith may have known of the prosecutor’s misconduct. Smith recused herself from the case.

Weaver argued that since Friedberg filed an ethical complaint against Smith, the entire bench should be disqualified. “If such a complaint were grounds for removal of a judge or an entire bench, parties could exercise continuing veto power over the assignment of trial court judges,” Johnson wrote. He also said there was no reason to disqualify the county attorney’s office.

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