Federal judge recuses himself from Clay Co. vote-buying case

Former Clay County Circuit Judge Cletus Maricle.  Photo provided.
Former Clay County Circuit Judge Cletus Maricle. Photo provided. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF COURTS

U. S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves has recused himself in the cases of eight Clay County residents whose convictions in a vote-buying conspiracy were struck down by an appeals court.

The cases were transferred on Wednesday to Chief U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell, according to a federal court order signed by Reeves. The order outlining the recusal and transfer of the cases did not provide further explanation.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle, former county school Superintendent Douglas Adams and six others convicted in the case should get a new trial. The appeals panel said Reeves committed errors in his handling of the trials. Reeves admitted some evidence that jurors shouldn't have been allowed to hear and improperly made changes to transcripts jurors were given of secret tape recordings made in the investigation, the appeals panel said. The appeals judges noted the trial was exceptionally difficult to manage and commended Reeves for his close attention to arguments and his thoughtful opinions. However, the appeals panel said the combined effect of the errors meant the eight defendants did not get a fair trial.

In other action in the case, Maricle and six of his co-defendants have asked to be released from prison while they await a new trial.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader