Saturday, May 15, 2004

Ex-public defender avoids arrest

By James Hannah
The Associated Press

DAYTON - Greg Baker is tired of the legal battles and just wants to know what happened to his 9-year-old daughter, who disappeared in 1999 while walking her dog in suburban Kettering.

"This is dragging out way too long," Baker said. "It's a psychological and emotional thing to us."

Prosecutors failed Thursday to have a former public defender arrested for refusing to answer questions about what a now-deceased client may have told her about the missing girl, Erica Baker.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr. sought to have a judge issue an arrest warrant for Beth Lewis for contempt. He announced the move after the Ohio Supreme Court turned down a request from Lewis that justices reconsider their decision to reject her right to invoke attorney-client privilege in the case.

"Enough is enough. It's time," Heck said at a news conference.

However, attorneys for Lewis filed a motion with the high court seeking a delay in its ruling until the case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the attorneys and prosecutors met privately with Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Michael Hall, who instead of issuing an arrest warrant scheduled a hearing for Monday to discuss the case. Lewis has refused to appear before a grand jury investigating the girl's disappearance.

"It's dead wrong that she's doing this to our family," Greg Baker said.

Lewis has refused to disclose whether her client, Jan Franks, had information about the girl's disappearance, citing attorney-client privilege. Franks died of a drug overdose in 2001. Her husband, Shane Franks, granted Lewis permission to testify, but Lewis argued that state law gave her the choice to refuse if it is in her client's interest.

In March, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that the spouse of the deceased client has the right to waive confidentiality. That ruling upheld two lower court orders.

No one has been charged in Erica's disappearance. According to an appeals court document, police received information Jan Franks and other people may have been in a van that struck and killed the girl.

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