Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Prosecutor wants Baker case returned

Federal court move called improper

The Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio - A prosecutor asked a federal judge Monday to return to state court the case of a former public defender who has refused to answer questions about what a now-deceased client may have told her about a missing 9-year-old girl.

In a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Walter Rice, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr. said public defender Beth Lewis' transfer of the case to federal court was improper because the state court had already entered final judgment.

A message seeking comment was left with Lewis' attorney, Lawrence Greger.

Lewis has refused to answer questions before a grand jury investigating the disappearance of Erica Baker, who vanished in 1999 while walking her dog in a park near her suburban Kettering home.

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.

Lewis has asked Rice to determine whether she can refuse to testify.

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.

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