Congratulations to WCTH partner, Joshua Hedrick, for his highly skilled efforts in obtaining a new trial for Raynella Dossett Leath. Previously convicted of murdering her husband in a high profile case out of Knox County, Josh effectively persuaded Senior Judge Paul Summers that Ms. Leath failed to receive a fair trial due to the structural error created by Trial Judge Richard Baumgartner. Judge Baumgartner was suffering from an opiate addiction while presiding over Ms. Leath’s trial in January 2010. Judge Baumgartner had previously refused to grant Ms. Leath a new trial, and this denial occurred only days before he was forced to step down during a TBI probe into accusations about his drug abuse.
Judge Baumgartner struggled with alcoholism and opiate addiction for several years before an investigation into his erratic behavior was conducted. During this time, Judge Baumgartner presided over several high profile (and memorable) cases in Knox County. After an extensive investigation, Judge Baumgartner resigned and pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct. He later was sentenced and served six months in federal prison. There have been many questions and concerns about the validity of the Judge’s rulings during the time he was suffering from his opiate addiction. Ms. Leath is one of several defendants who have been granted new trials because of this issue.
Last month Ms. Leath’s first degree murder conviction was thrown out and a new trial granted. Her first trial resulted in a deadlocked jury, and in her second she was convicted of David Leath’s death. Ms. Leath was previously serving a life sentence and has now been reunited with her family while on bond pending a decision by the State as to whether to appeal the judge’s ruling. Congratulations again to Josh and his co‑counsel, Rebecca LeGrand of Washington DC, for their unwavering commitment to this case.
For more information about exonerations, please see our website, knoxdefense.wpengine.com, or contact us at 865-524-8106.