Detroit, Grosse Pointe ParkMarch 14, 2014
Bashara’s new legal team remains in flux
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
Murder defendant Robert “Bob” Bashara was slated to get new attorneys formally appointed to him during a pretrial hearing March 11, and he did — at least momentarily.
Third Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans — who opted to remove Bashara’s previous court-appointed attorneys, Mark Procida and Nancy Shell, of the State Defender Office, at a Feb. 18 hearing — initially announced March 11 that she was naming David Cripps and Lillian F. Diallo to represent Bashara. She noted that Bashara had requested Cripps because of his experience with cases like this, and she said Cripps “is a very efficient lawyer.”
Evans also praised Diallo. While Diallo might not have quite as much experience as Cripps, “She is a very accomplished lawyer in this building and throughout the state,” Evans said. “I believe the two of them will be able to adequately represent you,” she told Bashara.
But after meeting with the possible new attorneys and prosecutors in her chambers, Evans emerged to announce that based on that conversation, “I will not enter an order appointing new attorneys (today).” Instead, she said she would be making a decision about how to proceed at a hearing at 9 a.m. April 4. Evans also said she wasn’t entering a scheduling order for motion and trial dates.
“It is my understanding some disclosures may be forthcoming,” Evans said, not elaborating on what those disclosures might entail.
Cripps declined to comment on the matter after court.
Evans had announced last month that she planned to appoint Cripps and his wife and law partner, Gabi Silver, to represent Bashara, along with a third attorney to be named at the March 11 hearing. But Silver wasn’t named a formal appointee at the March 11 hearing, although she was in the courtroom speaking with Bashara.
While the legal team might remain in flux, observers did get an idea of what they could expect once the trial gets rolling. Evans said that because of the “high publicity” this case has received, prospective jurors would be asked to respond to a questionnaire featuring questions submitted by prosecutors and defense counsel and approved by the court. Both sides would be required to draft and submit their questions no later than 60 days before the trial, she said. The court would call 150 prospective jurors to complete the questionnaire, and when jurors were called back to court, Evans said each side would have an hour apiece for voir dire. She said she would allow each side 20 pre-emptory challenges.
The judge tackled other legal issues related to the case, as well, March 11. As to paperwork seized last October from the home office of Bashara’s personal attorney, Dean Valente, Evans said three of the four boxes would be returned immediately to him. A fourth box would be retained by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, she said. Within 60 days, Evans said the court would enter an order with regard to the contents of that box.
“I just need to know the scope of (Valente’s) representation (to Bashara) to know after my review with the master (judge appointed to review contents of all of the boxes) what is privileged,” Evans said.
Another of Bashara’s close associates was seeking a return of seized items. Richard J. Falcinelli, a longtime friend and business associate, had been seeking the return of items taken by investigators from his home office Oct. 29, 2013, around the time Valente’s home office was searched. Lynn Shecter, one of Falcinelli’s attorneys, said Falcinelli has had power of attorney for Bashara since March 2013. He has not, however, been implicated in the Bashara case.
“There’s no insinuation that Mr. Falcinelli is involved in Jane Bashara’s murder or the aftermath,” Shecter said after court. Robert Bashara is accused of orchestrating the January 2012 murder of Jane Bashara, his wife.
Steve Kaplan, the other attorney representing Falcinelli, announced in court that “we resolved the case” over his client’s seized belongings. A shotgun and handgun taken during the search were slated to be returned to Falcinelli by April 10, as were two computers — a desktop and laptop. Power of attorney documents were supposed to be returned to him within the next week, and a cellphone was supposed to be returned to him on or before April 1, Kaplan said.
Falcinelli’s attorneys said after court that their client needs these items back as soon as possible because he uses them in his business as a software consultant.
“They’re interfering with his ability to conduct his business,” Shecter said.
Evans had initially set 9 a.m. Oct. 2 as the start date and time for the Bashara trial, but after the conference with prosecutors and Bashara’s prospective new legal team, the judge announced that she wasn’t entering a scheduling order yet for the case, so it’s not clear if the trial will start in October or at another time. At press time, she told the attorneys she would make a decision how to proceed during a hearing at 9 a.m. April 4.