Lawyer files 14 motions in murder case

By Abby Morris-Frye
star staff

  An attorney representing Robert Lee Miller, a Carter County man charged in the death of a young Elizabethton mother, filed 14 motions in court on Monday requesting everything from evidence and witness lists to psychiatric records of the victim.
  Miller, 46, 221 Bill Nave Loop, has been indicted on charges of first degree murder, felony murder and aggravated rape in the death of 22-year-old Kristal Dubuque, whose body was found Feb. 18 on the banks of the Watauga River.
  His attorney, Clifton Corker, filed motions considered standard procedure as well as some rather uncommon ones.
  Motions Corker filed that can be considered routine include requesting notification by the state regarding the prosecution's intent to use evidence, a motion for discovery and inspection of records and reports, a motion for leave to file additional motions as circumstances may dictate, and a motion to instruct the jury on lesser-included offenses. Judge Robert Cupp, who is presiding over the case, granted those motions.
  Another motion Corker filed was for disclosure of the identities of all law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation or prosecution of the case. "There was a lot that happened between the discovery of the car and the discovery of the body, and I need to know who was working on the case," Corker told Cupp. That motion was also granted.
  Two other motions Corker filed relate to expert witness testimony. One requested a disclosure of summary of expert testimony, disclosure of facts and data underlying expert testimony, and qualification of expert witnesses. On that motion, Cupp said that instead of the summary of expert testimony, he will give Corker copies of reports expert witnesses have filed. Then, if Corker needs more information, Cupp will issue a ruling on the motion.
  The second motion dealing with expert witnesses is termed a motion in limine, asking that the court limit the scope of expert testimony. Assistant District Attorney Ken Baldwin told Cupp the state only plans to use two expert witnesses, the medical pathologist who performed the autopsy and a forensic expert who will testify about DNA evidence.
  Corker also filed a second motion in limine asking that the court prohibit the display of photographs of Dubuque either before or after her death unless and until the court has had an opportunity to see the photos and Cupp has ruled which ones are relevant to the case and may be admitted into evidence. "Photographs of the alleged victims should be closely and carefully scrutinized to avoid impermissibly inflaming the passions and bias of the jury," states the motion.
  Cupp made no ruling on the motion regarding the display of photographs at trial and said the defense could review the photographs; then the defense and prosecution can discuss the issue with him if any objections exist.
  Corker also filed a motion asking that the court issue an order allowing the defense access to Dubuque's psychiatric medical records, including any previous psychiatric history and treatment for psychiatric disorders. The motion asked for the names and addresses of any or all psychotherapists including psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals who have treated Dubuque, as well as any drug treatment records.
  The motion further states that the information is necessary for the defendant to provide an adequate defense. "Further, prior medical records are absolutely necessary because the state is claiming that the body of the deceased contains evidence and trauma that was caused by the defendant," states the motion. "If the medical and psychiatric records of the deceased show otherwise, then that information is exculpatory."
  Baldwin challenged Corker's motion saying the case is about a "brutal rape" and a murder, and said that Dubuque's mental health records have nothing to do with the case.
  Cupp denied Corker's motion seeking Dubuque's psychiatric health records, stating that whether or not Dubuque suffered from any mental illness has no relevance in the case regarding her rape and murder. "I'm going to deny that (motion) subject to you giving me something to show me that it's relevant," Cupp said.
  Miller is expected to be tried on the charges against him either in March or April 2005, and the trial is anticipated to last a week. He is next scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on Dec. 17 for a motions hearing, where Cupp could rule on Monday's postponed motions as well as any additional ones filed between now and then.