Judges out of case

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

VIDALIA &8212; Louisiana Seventh Judicial District Court Judges Kathy Johnson and Leo Boothe recused themselves Friday from presiding over a Ferriday voter fraud case.

The Louisiana Supreme Court will be asked to appoint a judge to take over the case.

Had Boothe or Johnson not voluntarily recused themselves, a request would have been made to the Supreme Court to appoint a judge just to hear the recusal motion.

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Julie Cullen, a lawyer with the Louisiana Attorney General&8217;s office and the lead attorney for the prosecution, filed a motion Friday morning for the recusal of both judges. Cullen recently took over the case from Arthur Schafer.

Boothe spent most of the afternoon hearing aruments on the motion from lawyers on both sides before signing a recusal order late Friday.

Judges recuse themselves from cases when there is a possible appearance of impartiality. Johnson said it is common in cases involving political matters.

The Concordia Parish District Attorney&8217;s office recused itself from the matter last spring, turning it over to the Attorney General&8217;s office.

Defendants, lawyers and judges had been present Friday for a hearing that was postponed after the recusal motion was made. Two other motions were supposed to be decided, but both have been postponed until a new judge is appointed to try the case.

Judges cannot decide any motions or hold any hearings once a motion for their recusal has been filed.

The five defendants &8212; Willie Robinson, Emerson Slain, Justin Conner, James Skipper and Henrietta Williams &8212; are accused of various crimes relating to allegedly fraudulent ballots that were obtained for Frederick White, Estella White and Lillie M. White, three Ferriday residents. The ballots were for the April 2004 mayoral election in which Gene Allen defeated incumbent Glen McGlothin.

The defendants allegedly forged applications for absentee ballots and the ballots themselves, a violation of election law.

The judge appointed by the Supreme Court will decide two motions before the court. In the preliminary exam, the prosecution will have to put evidence forward to justify the arrests. The other motion challenges the makeup of the jury.