Defense lawyer worried about trial date for man charged with murder
by Rachael Griffin
rgriffin@annistonstar.com
Apr 30, 2013 | 7790 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nicholas Smith
Nicholas Smith
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A judge and prosecutors said Tuesday they’re ready for the trial of a man accused of killing a Wellborn schoolteacher in 2011. However, a newly appointed defense lawyer is concerned evidence won’t be available in time.

Tim Burgess, the lawyer appointed two weeks ago to represent Nicholas Smith, said in a status hearing held by Brian Howell, Calhoun County circuit judge, that the defense has been interviewing witnesses and collecting records, but Burgess is still worried about the June 24 trial date.

Burgess became the third attorney involved in the case after Shaun Quinlan, another appointed lawyer for Smith, had an accident and needed help preparing for the trial.

“I don’t physically think we can have everything by that time,” Burgess said.

Smith, 24, is one of three men charged with kidnapping and murdering Wellborn Elementary School third-grade teacher Kevin Thompson, 29, of Jacksonville in April 2011.

Tyrone Thompson, a childhood friend of Kevin Thompson, and Jovon Gaston, are also charged with kidnapping Kevin Thompson and forcing him to withdraw money from several banks and ATMs in Jacksonville. The teacher’s body was discovered by police on U.S. 278 in Cherokee County nearly two days after he was reported missing.

Burgess said he’s at a disadvantage because he’s only reviewed the case materials for two weeks.

“We’re doing everything humanly possible,” Burgess said, including putting his own law practice on hold.

Howell said he’s prepared to choose a jury on June 20 and begin the trial four days later.

“You never feel like you’re 100 percent ready for a case,” Howell said. “You always feel there’s something else you can do.”

Lynn Hammond, Calhoun County assistant district attorney, said her office already has a full trial schedule and can’t delay this case.

“The state is ready for trial and has been for some time,” Hammond said.

Burgess said the defense is still gathering Smith’s school records from Florida, Hawaii and California. Records from the Department of Human Resources and the Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center will also be subpoenaed soon, Burgess said.

“I can’t make people produce records quicker,” Burgess said.

Burgess said if the defense can’t get the information needed, then it can’t be ready.

“So much of it’s out of our hands,” Burgess said. “It’s up to other people.”

Howell scheduled another status hearing for May 29 at 2 p.m. to discuss further questions or issues before the trial begins.

Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.

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