The attorney representing Paula Hall is alleging Prosecutorial misconduct in a motion filed today (05-22-13) and is asking that a special prosecutor be named to handle her clients murder case that was overturned by the Missouri Court of Appeals.
In Paula Hall's 2009 murder trial Lisa Bonham appeared as a witness for the state. Bonham, who was incarcerated with Hall in Christian County, testified that Hall told her that she took part in killing Freda Heyn in 2003.
|Paula Hall (mug shot MDOC)|
"During direct examination Christian County Assistant Prosecutor Donovan Dobbs solicited testimony from Bonham that she had no pending Christian county charges and at the time she was in the Christian County jail with Paula she had been there on a paperwork snafu. Post trial it was learned this was false testimony."
Bonham testified that she had not read any of the discovery in Hall's case and "all she knew came from Paula herself." When Bonham's former cellmate, Jennifer Berry, was deposed she said that Bonham was "going to use Paula as a ticket to keep out of prison and that she had indeed read Paula's discovery."
Cleek argued during closing arguments that "Ms. Bonham had no deal and there was nothing he could offer her and she was testifying because it was the right thing to do."
Sanders writes in the motion filed this morning in Taney County, where the case was moved on a change of venue, that after Hall's trial she learned that former Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek had written an letter to Greene County Judge Tom Mountjoy BEFORE Hall's trial asking "that he grant her leniency on her Greene County cases due to her testifying in the Hall case."
Sanders alleges that letter was followed up by an email Cleek sent to the Greene County prosecutor's office five days after Hall's 2009 conviction. "The email was again asking that consideration be given to Bonham for her testimony."
|Freda Heyn was last seen alive at a Post Office near Oldfield in 2003|
Sanders wants a special prosecutor appointed to Hall's new case, if it does proceed to trial, because current Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite was the prosecutor in Greene County who handled Bonham's cases.
When Fite responded to Cleek's email asking for leniency in Bonham's case she wrote, "her voluntary testimony was a mitigating fact and went into the concurrent offer."
In 2011, Judge John Moody overturned Hall's conviction. Fite filed a motion to reconsider and Moody temporarily vacated that order.
Sanders says when Fite learned that there was a letter from Mr. Cleek in Ms. Bonham's Greene County court file she called Bonham's attorney, Kyle Domain, and "attempted to convince Mr. Domain "that he did not see a letter but that in fact what he observed was the email she had received from Mr. Cleek."
Sanders then filed a motion to have Fite disqualified to handle Hall's new case. When Fite and Sanders met with Judge Moody to discuss the matter, Fite said Domain called her and opened her computer and read from her notes of the conversation. The notes did not mention the letter or email, but did note that Domain had called her.
Sanders withdrew her motion asking for a new prosecutor at that time, but called Domain and asked why he had misled her. "Mr. Domain informed Movants [Sanders] counsel at that time that Prosecutor Fite had been less than forthcoming to both counsel and Judge Moody."
Domain said he had talked with Fite twice that day and that he had made the initial phone call, "Domain maintained that regardless of whether it was in her notes or not that they did have a brief conversation regarding the email."
Domain says that during the second phone call Fite "attempted to persuade him that he had not seen a letter but that it was instead the email he had seen."
"Mr. Domain remains adamant that the letter was written on Christian County letterhead and was not an email."
Sanders also alleges that Christian County Assistant Prosecutor Donovan Dobbs testified during a Post Conviction Relief hearing that "he had an exparte [in this case it means both parties were present. i.e., Dobbs and Lisa Bonham, NOT an order of protection] meeting with witness Lisa Bonham" and that he did so knowing she was represented by an attorney.
Dobbs also testified that he filed a motion requesting that Bonham be released back to probation even though she had numerous probation violations and new felony charges pending in a neighboring county, according to court documents.
He admitted that the asking for those considerations was "not common for the Christian County Prosecutor's Office given the extensive criminal history and continuing violations" of someone like Bonham.
During the May 22nd motion hearing, Sanders asked to re-depose David Epperson. That motion was granted over the objection of prosecutor's. Epperson had originally been charged with second-degree murder in connection to Heyn's death, however, those charges were amended to tampering with evidence when he agreed to testify for the state.
Epperson testified at Hall's trial that he cut his hand on a piece of glass when he helped her clean up blood from inside Heyn's home. Epperson was sentenced to four years in prison for his testimony, however, that sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for five years in 2012.
Sanders also asked for a speedy trial this time around. That motion was also granted and a trial date of September 30, 2013, was set. Sanders says she will call Fite, Dobbs and former prosecutor Ron Cleek as witnesses.
"I am thrilled that Paula will be coming home," said Sanders. "I am hopeful that I can get her released while awaiting the new trial. Her spirits are high, she is looking forward to spending time with her children and grandchildren. She has hopes of being able to find a job and start college, as she earned her GED while in prison. I'm very proud of her and the positive outlook she has kept during this difficult time in her life. The fact she took what would have made most people bitter and instead used the time to better herself speaks highly of her character."
"I'm gearing up to try this case.....I don't intend to lose this time."