Updated 10/07/2011 09:14 PM
Defense motions to remove judge, attorneys from murder case
A week before the murder trial of Corbin Whyte is scheduled to begin, the defense makes an unusual request. Tamara Lindstrom has the latest developments in the Ithaca shooting death.
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ITHACA, N.Y. -- Just days before the trial is set to begin, the defense in an Ithaca murder case makes a motion for some major changes.
"I don't think what's going on here is appropriate and proper," said defense attorney Thomas Kheel.
Twenty-seven-year old Corbin Whyte is facing charges for murder, robbery and tampering with evidence in the shooting of 47-year-old Paul Garcia. Garcia was killed in the parking lot of Ithaca's Maple Hill Apartments last December.
On Friday, Whyte's attorney asked the judge to recuse herself from the case.
"We're saying that we need a full time county judge and somebody with felony experience. A real county judge who has the time to do this case," Kheel said.
Judge Judith Rossiter is a city judge filling in for the county, a position she said is well within the law.
Kheel also asked that Assistant District Attorney Andrew McElwee be taken off the case, saying he overstepped his bounds by conducting an early interview with a witness.
"An interrogation with the key unindicted co-conspirator who now is the key prosecution witness. He obtained her confession," Kheel said. "Police officers were also there, but he obtained her confession."
McElwee argued it is acceptable for the prosecution to be involved in police interviews. But he's not the only attorney Kheel wants out of the courtroom. The assigned council asked to be removed himself. Kheel said the prosecution may call three of his former clients as witnesses.
"It would put me in conflict with former clients and these are former criminal defense clients recently in the county," Kheel said. "So I brought that to the court's attention because I don't believe this is proper. I know it's not proper to proceed because I would be in the position of cross-examining my own former clients."
The judge found those requests did not meet the standards and ruled not to recuse herself or the assistant district attorney. Whether or not Whyte will receive a new attorney will be determined next week.
The judge is leaving it up to the defendant to decide whether or not he wants a new attorney. The trial is scheduled to begin October 17th.