Judge refuses to allow public defender to withdraw from murder case

attorney leaving office to stay home with child

jkegley@herald-leader.comApril 23, 2011 

The murder trial of Timothy Meskimen will continue as scheduled after a judge refused to allow an attorney to withdraw from the case Friday.

Meskimen, 39, was arrested after Edgar Hurst, 50, was found beaten to death and hidden under some brush last year. Meskimen appeared in front of Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael for a status hearing Friday. The trial is scheduled to begin May 17.

Public defender Eden Davis Stephens asked Ishmael to allow her to withdraw from the case because she is resigning to become a stay-at-home mom to her newborn child. Stephens has been out of the office on maternity leave since December, chief public defender Tom Griffiths said.

Ishmael expressed some concern with releasing the lead attorney on the case so close to the trial date, especially after Meskimen told his attorneys he did not wish to have the trial postponed.

"I'd be objecting to it if I were these two good folks," Ishmael said, indicating Griffiths and public defender Shannon Brooks-English, who would take over the case.

Griffiths did not object to Stephens' being released, but "to say that it changes what was going to happen in the case is, of course, an understatement," he said.

"She was the one who was sort of the keeper of knowledge and the one who was steering the ship, so I have some serious concerns," he told the judge.

The judge called Meskimen and his attorneys to the bench where, after consulting off the record for several minutes, Ishmael said the matter had been resolved.

Afterward, Griffiths said Stephens had not been excused.

Meskimen is scheduled for another status hearing May 6 after DNA evidence is expected to be returned in the case.

Both Meskimen and Hurst had no permanent addresses in Lexington, investigators have said. Hurst, who died from head trauma, was found concealed along North Broadway near Interstate 75.

Meskimen is charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence, third-degree criminal trespassing and alcohol intoxication. If convicted of murder, he faces 20 years to life in prison.

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