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Judge Reprimands Johnston District Attorney's Office

Posted March 19, 2008

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— A Superior Court judge has reprimanded the Johnston County District Attorney's Office for waiting too long to turn over evidence in the murder trial of a woman accused of shooting her boyfriend to death nearly two years ago.

Prosecutors turned over a 437-page file with investigators' notes to defense attorneys for Tiffany Ann Bassett five days before the trial was supposed to start March 17.

The district attorney's office said it only recently discovered this missing file, and turned it over right away.

But Superior Court Judge E. Lynn Johnson called the late disclosure "egregious" before ordering a new trial date of April 21 in Cumberland County. The trial's location had been changed because of pre-trial publicity.

Bassett is charged with first-degree murder in the July 18, 2006, death of Donald "Keith" West, whom authorities found dead inside his bedroom. West was the president and chief executive officer of West-Tek Inc. of Smithfield. He was also a former Smithfield police officer.

"The judge could have thrown (the case) out if the judge had determined it was a willful violation," said Irving Joyner, an attorney and professor of law at North Carolina Central University.

"Finally, we're at trial almost two years later, and then, it was like a kick in the stomach," said West's sister, Janet Tedder, who said she believes elections and changes in the prosecutor's office played a role in the case taking so long to go to trial.

"I think 20 months ago, the focus on this case was not there," she said.

"I think there are major flaws in the system, and that's why defense attorneys have been fighting for years to bring about some change," Joyner said

The district attorney's office said that as of March 1 there is a new system in place to track every piece of evidence, to prevent something like this from happening again.

Bassett's attorney, W. Robert Denning III, declined to comment Wednesday.

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  • truthwillout56 Mar 20, 2008

    They didn't just find this stuff. They've had it for months. There is no excuse for what happened here and the waste of taxpayer time and money that resulted.

  • Reason Mar 20, 2008

    I love how people jump the gun and want to point fingers. Ignorance is bliss I guess. The article clearly states that the files were NOT in the DA's office. As soon as they recieved them, they turned them over. It also clearly states there was a change of administration and that the Assistant DA that was handling the case is no longer there. How can that be the new DA or her new assistants fault? Use some common sense people.

  • AMHall82 Mar 20, 2008

    whatusay - The DA's office found the file last Wednesday afternoon & called her attorney right away. That is the reason that this was continued until April. She will only spend the rest of her life in jail if she is found guilty when it goes to trial.

  • whatusay Mar 20, 2008

    So the DA lost the file and this woman will spend the rest of her life in jail without a trial? Guilty or not she must remain in jail because the DA can not find the file.

  • duster 340 Mar 20, 2008

    We may need to lose more files to keep the gangs of the street !

  • lilwil Mar 20, 2008

    Sometimes these attorneys, rather DA's, defense attorneys are just as crooked as the criminals.

    But there are honest ones who uphold the law and should be commended. Hopefully, she will get a fair trial. If she did in fact murder someone, she does not to get off because of a technicality.

  • b4self Mar 20, 2008

    Johnston Co.DA (TOM LOCKE)at his best.lol

  • dohicky Mar 20, 2008

    Sloppy is what I call it. And some people think they can depend on government to take care of them. I have seen people that oversee government agencies at all levels that seem to think these offices are their own little kingdoms and are responsible to no one.

  • OLD PIRATE 2 Mar 20, 2008

    Typical Judge: Blame the "people" not the criminal

  • AMHall82 Mar 20, 2008

    The file is investigative notes that were done by the Johnston County SO's office and turned over to an ADA under the previous administration (DA Tom Lock). Tom Lock is no longer there & the ADA is no longer there. The case file has, among other things, information related to the timeline of events leading up to Keith's death. I think we all agree that both sides of the case deserve a fair trial, and I'm not sure that WRAL posted it, but the DA's office conceded the mistake & conceded that Tiffany's case would be prejudiced if they didn't continue the case to give her defense attorney time to evaluate the evidence properly. In the judge's mind, there is no question as to the integrity of the evidence, otherwise, the defense's motion to suppress the evidence would not have been denied.

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