LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. — Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely is set to go on trial on theft and ethics charges on March 9. He’s asked the court to delay his trial while his lead attorney recovers from surgery, but the court rejected his request.
Judge Pride Tompkins rejected the defense motion for a continuance Monday. Blakely, who was indicted in August, is being prosecuted by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. The attorney general’s office argued strongly Monday against delaying the trial, but the trial judge may not have the last word.
Blakely can appeal the ruling.
“You file a petition asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse that judge’s decision,” said Huntsville attorney Ron Smith.
Defense Attorney Robert Tuten on Monday detailed to the court the health issues he has been dealing with post-surgery. The defense asked for a month delay. If an appeal is filed, the court will consider if the continuance request is justified.
“Are you gaining an unfair advantage or are you, is it something necessary for the client to get a fair trial,” Smith said.
Prosecutors pointed out Monday that the court told Blakely in January to seek another lawyer if Tuten wouldn’t be available. But Smith said it doesn’t quite work that way in a complex case with multiple counts.
“I understand in this case, the Blakely case, there is voluminous discovery, thousands of pages. So, that would be a short window in which to prepare for a trial of that magnitude,” Smith said.
Tuten has co-counsel Marcus Helstowski, but Smith said lawyers generally divide the labor in preparing for trial.
“One of those attorneys is gone, it’s not by osmosis the other attorney all of a sudden knows everything that that attorney knew and is prepared to handle all those issues. You’ve got to basically start from scratch,” Smith said.
Nearly 500 jury summons have been sent out for the March 9 trial. But Smith said the trial schedule isn’t the chief issue for the court.
“A fair trial should be the primary concern because that’s the only one the Constitution addresses,” Smith said.
The court has scheduled another hearing in the Blakely case for Wednesday afternoon. Court records show it will take up the defense’s request for the state to reveal any deals or promises it has made with expected witnesses or case informants.