Slaying case file sealed by judge

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Parties involved remain under a gag order, and the court file ina pending capital murder case was ordered sealed Monday in LincolnCounty Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Baggett Jr., charged with capital murder androbbery in the Jan. 16 shooting death of convenience store ownerJohn Deere, remains in jail following his June 3 arrest.

For a second time Monday, defense attorneys sought a habeascorpus hearing challenging why Baggett, 22, of 2471 Lake LincolnDr., was being held in jail. According to The ‘Lectric Law Library,”a habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by aperson who objects to his own or another’s detention orimprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering thedetention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error.”

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Judge Mike Smith dismissed an earlier petition due to a lack ofspecifics plus Baggett already having a bond, which had been set at$1 million. The defense’s petition was revised and refiled and wasthe subject of Monday’s court action.

Baggett and Deere family members waited in the courtroom forabout an hour Monday afternoon as prosecution and defense attorneysmet with Smith in the judge’s chambers. Returning to the courtroom,Baggett’s attorney James Bell said witnesses called for the hearinghad been released from their subpoenas.

“There will not be a hearing,” Bell said.

However later, a court official, who preferred to remainanonymous, said a hearing was held in chambers and that the habeascorpus action failed.

When questioned about Monday’s activities, Smith said a writtenorder would be issued but the court file had been sealed. He saidrecords that are normally public can be sealed in “extraordinarycases,” but he did not elaborate.

“I’m not going to tell you anything else,” Smith said. “Thereare facts affecting the state’s and the defendant’s rights that donot need to be revealed.”

After making his announcement, Bell huddled briefly with Baggettfamily members in the courtroom. Citing the judge’s gag order, theyhad no comment while leaving the government complex.

District Attorney Dee Bates met with Deere family members forabout 45 minutes in his office following the hearing. Bates alsohad no comment on the case.

The next step in the case is expected to be a preliminaryhearing, but it was not known Monday when that would be. Thepurpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether a caseshould be bound over for presentation to the grand jury andpossible indictment by that panel.