Thursday, January 30, 2003

Lawyer's case to be heard by high court

Defender refuses to reveal possible Erica Baker info

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Ohio Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of a lawyer who has refused to divulge what a now-deceased client may have told her about a nationally publicized missing-child case.

Erica Baker
Erica Baker
The court's decision Wednesday is the latest action in a seven-month legal battle.

Beth Lewis, a federal public defender, is fighting lower courts' orders that she reveal what she might have been told about the 1999 disappearance of Erica Baker.

Erica, then 9, vanished from her neighborhood in Kettering, a Dayton suburb, while walking her dog.

John P. Feldmeier, a Cincinnati lawyer representing Lewis, said the court's decision means a court order that Lewis be jailed for contempt will remain on hold. A court date probably won't be set before this fall, he said.

The decision comes as Erica's family prepares for what will probably be the final candlelight vigil in her memory, said her father, Greg Baker. The ceremony is set for the fourth anniversary of her disappearance, 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Erica N. Baker Recovery Center on Smithville Road, Kettering, which will soon be vacated.

Erica's family and Montgomery County prosecutors have said they have reason to believe that Lewis may have information that would crack the otherwise stalled investigation.

Lewis represented a woman named Jan Franks in an unrelated federal court case. Erica's family and police say they tried to probe persistent rumors that Franks knew what had happened to Erica, but Franks wouldn't cooperate.


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