LONDON, Ky. — The war of words between a federal judge and one of the lawyers for Patrick Baker has heated up, delaying closing arguments in the trial of the man pardoned by then-Gov. Matt Bevin.
U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom has threatened to find Louisville attorney Steve Romines in contempt for repeatedly violating her orders against citing inadmissible hearsay evidence.
Romines in turn has accused Boom of bias, which she has denied.
It’s gotten so tense that the defense team has retained counsel, white-collar criminal defense attorney Marc Murphy (and a Courier Journal political cartoonist), who rushed to court Tuesday morning.
The battle comes toward the end of what may be the first trial ever in the United States in which the federal government is prosecuting an offender pardoned by a governor.
If convicted of the 2014 murder of Donald Mills during a robbery, Baker faces up to life in prison. He has testified that he neither robbed nor shot Mills and that another man did so.
Baker served only two years of 19-year sentence before Bevin, in a flurry of clemency orders at the end of his term, pardoned him, saying the evidence against him was sketchy.
Romines told Boom Tuesday morning that he would restrict his closing argument to comply with Boom’s order. But Romines said he was concerned that in doing so, Baker would be denied effective counsel.
Romines asked for permission to recite, without the jury present, the portions of his argument he intends to omit, so they can be considered by an appellate court if Baker is convicted and appeals.
Boom granted the request.
Closing arguments are now likely after a lunch recess.
Romines said his argument is likely to take two hours, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna Reed said hers would take an hour.