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Judge orders retrial in 'black widow' murder case

Judge orders retrial in 'black widow' murder case | WBIR.com:



"KNOXVILLE - A judge has overturned the murder conviction of a Knox County woman charged in the 2003 shooting death of her husband and ordered a new trial.

Senior Judge Paul Summers agreed to toss the conviction against so-called “black widow” Raynella Dossett Leath for killing her husband Richard because the judge who oversaw the initial case – Richard Baumgartner – was on drugs throughout the trial.

“Baumgartner continued his spiral into addiction and addictive behavior,” Summers said in a judgment issued Wednesday. “He was addicted to opioids, and his sickness caused him to make many bad choices. He was an addict during the Leath trial and during the entire year between the trial and the motion for the retrial.”

Summers said Baumgartner was not able to properly evaluate prior testimony, weigh evidence or “fairly make a determination to fulfill his role as thirteenth juror.”

A jury convicted Leath in 2010 of killing her husband. She claimed he committed suicide.

In March, Leath asked the judge to overturn her conviction and allow her a new trial, claiming there was new evidence that Baumgartner used drugs during her trial. Baumgartner was the focus of a TBI investigation into illegal drug use. He spent time in prison following a conviction in federal court.

Leath was also accused in the 1992 death of her first husband, Knox County District Attorney General Ed Dossett. He died after being trampled by cattle on his farm, but investigators later determined he may have been drugged and the death staged.

She was charged in Dossett's death, but the charges were dropped after she was convicted in her second husband's death.

She actually stood trial twice for Leath's death. The first ended in a hung jury.

WBIR 10News has reached out to Cynthia Schemel, the special prosecutor in the case 2010, to see whether her office intends to appeal Summers' decision."



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