Court of Appeals denies former Limestone Co. Sheriff’s request to move case back to Circuit Court
LIMESTONE CO., Ala. (WAFF) - The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals denied former Limestone County Sheriff Michael Blakely’s request to restore partial jurisdiction in his case back to circuit court. Blakely’s attorneys say this needed to happen so a ruling could be made on whether the judge who oversaw his theft conviction could be dismissed.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued the order preventing the case from being sent back to Circuit Court on September 13th.
Attorney Robert Tuten, who represents Blakely, said he wasn’t very surprised by the order keeping the case fully under the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. He said depending on how the court of criminal appeals rules on Blakely’s full appeal, his team of lawyers could revisit the request to have Judge Pamela Baschab recused.
In court documents filed on August 31, attorneys for former Limestone County Sheriff Michael Blakely requested the recusal of Judge Pamela Baschab. On Aug. 25, the State of Alabama argued the Circuit Court of Limestone County does not have the authority to hear the request. They argued this because Blakely had already appealed the conviction, giving jurisdiction to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
Blakely’s request included an undated screenshot image of a search (said to have been researched in August 2022) for Judge Baschab on alabar.org. In that image, it shows that Judge Baschab is not authorized to practice law in the state of Alabama.
The document states that the reason for the recusal is not focused on the bias of Judge Baschab, but is focused on ‘whether a reasonable person perceives potential bias or lack of impartiality.’ The document closes out with a request of recusal for Judge Baschab from presiding over any other proceedings in the case.
The State issued the following response:
The State of Alabama respectfully notifies this Court that it lacks jurisdiction to consider Defendant Michael Anthony Blakely’s latest claims of error. It is a binding elementary principle of law that “when an appeal is taken and perfected from the judgment of any court to a higher court, the jurisdiction vests at once in the higher court and such appeal divests the court from which it is taken of all jurisdiction.”
Attorney General Steve Marshall issued the following statement regarding the request:
“Mike Blakely’s latest attempt to avoid serving his jail sentence is meritless. The trial against him was fair, and a jury of his peers correctly convicted him on two felonies. The Honorable Pamela Baschab flawlessly conducted that three-week trial, while also correctly addressing a multitude of pre-trial and post-trial issues. The State stands ready to vigorously defend the jury’s verdicts in any forum in which Mr. Blakely attempts to evade justice.” – Attorney General Steve Marshall
When Blakely was indicted in 2019, every Limestone County judge recused themselves from his case due to him being the county’s Sheriff for more than 30 years. In 2021, Judge Baschab was appointed to replace the Honorable Pride Tompkins, who recused himself due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blakely’s attorneys listed the Code of Alabama Section 12-10B-2(a) in the document which reads:
“All supreme court justices, judges of the appellate courts, circuit court judges, and district court judges must be licensed attorneys.”
In other documents filed, Blakely’s attorneys requested that his conviction and sentencing order be dismissed. The opening statement reads:
“...moves this Honorable Court to set aside the convictions in jury verdict Count 2 and jury verdict Count 13 and to set aside the Defendant’s sentencing order...”
Count 2 is listed as Theft of Property in the First Degree - Red Brick Strategies Check and Count 13 is listed as Use of Official Position or Office for Personal Gain - interest-free loans from safe/Limestone County inmates.
In court documents filed on Aug. 25, the defense stated that the Circuit Court has the authority to rule on its previous motion, to which the state objected. The defense also says the Circuit Court has the authority to rule on it because the conviction and sentence order should be voided.
The state objected this because the defense is already appealing, which means the Appellate Court has jurisdiction.
In August 2021, Blakely was sentenced to three years for allegedly stealing campaign donations, taking personal loans from Sheriff’s Office funds without paying interest and soliciting money from Sheriff’s Office employees.
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