LUDINGTON, MICH. - A judge ruled against an emergency motion during the "Baby Kate" murder trial to disqualify himself from the case.
It was an unexpected turn Wednesday, Oct. 5, in the trial, accusing "Kate's" father, Sean Phillips, of his daughter's murder.
A prosecutor from the Michigan attorney general's office alleged there was an "appearance of impropriety" involving Judge Peter Wadel. They say he might have already made up his mind about the case although the state hasn't finished presenting its testimony.
Michigan Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin told the judge his actions last week Thursday were out of line and he must recuse himself.
Rollstin says retired Oceana County Judge Terrance Thomas came to this court house last week and told lead prosecutor Donna Pendergast she'd "have a hard time pulling this one out of the bag."
Then, the retired judge and Wadel met for a time in chambers and outside public view. Rollstin then says retired judge Thomas told a member of the defense team this:
"I just had a couple of minutes with Pete, and he sees it the same way I do," Rollstin said. "That begs the question, how does judge Thomas see this case?"
A detective on the "Baby Kate" case said he heard what the retired judge said. Thomas was questioned at length that day. He repeatedly denied that he and Wadel discussed the "Baby Kate" trial.
The retired judge once rendered a not guilty directed verdict on a no-body homicide case. Phillips' defense attorney David Glancy said the judge should remain on the trial.
"Judge Thomas states that he doesn't know how you see this case, he states obviously we had no discussion regarding this case, he states you are going to get a fair trial," Glancy said. "He is asked did you discuss this case, and he replies 'no.'"
Wadel took one hour to review Michigan law. He returned with a response.
"His entry into my chamber was simply a courtesy extended to a colleague," Wadel said.
Wadel said he and the retired judge met for five minutes and mostly talked about the retired judge's health, claiming now the motion was an attempt by the state attorney general's office to get him off the trial.
"The one thing that is not true is that we had any discussion about it and that I had expressed an opinion about it our that I have decided how I would decide this case," Wadel said.
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