Columbia attorney Kate Landess insists the courtroom debacle she endured last week won’t stop her from fighting to clear the name of her client, Konnie Glidden, in a prominent cold case murder.
Landess said she screwed up by arriving 90 minutes late for a June 13 court hearing on her motion seeking to toss out Glidden’s confession in the 1992 kidnapping, gang rape and fatal shooting of sailor James Horton.
“Short of a gunshot wound to the head, there is no excuse for being late like that,” Landess said.
Her tardiness drew the ire of Circuit Court Judge Markley Dennis, who later threatened to toss Landess in jail for proceeding in a manner he described as unprofessional, irrelevant and sarcastic.
Landess said she wasn’t pleased by her performance or happy about being scolded by a judge she very much admires. She said she also felt like the prosecutors and federal agents went out of their way to make her look bad.
But she said she won’t let any of that stop her from trying to prove Glidden’s innocence.
“I believe she is innocent and no matter what happens, the truth is going to come out,” Landess said. “No matter how stupid or idiotic they try to make me look, the truth is going to come out that she is innocent and they framed her.”
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said court rules limit what she can say about a case before trial and her office intends to respond to Landess’ comments “only if it is absolutely necessary and the rules allow us to do so.
“Until then, we will respond only to the motions she files with the court and we have nothing further to say about Ms. Landess’ behavior or her perspective,” she said. “We will not be baited by any attorney into an interview in violation of the rules of ethics.”
Landess contends that agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service coerced Glidden into confessing by hounding her and subjecting her to a grueling eight-hour interrogation. She also has accused NCIS agents of ignoring evidence and inconsistencies that didn’t fit their theory if the crime.
Landess said prosecutors encouraged her to submit a motion to throw out Glidden’s confession, but then turned on her during the hearing.
She said Assistant Solicitor Greg Voigt told her that the judge likely wouldn’t take the bench until at least 3 p.m. – an hour later than scheduled – because he had just finished a grueling sentencing hearing for child molester Louis “Skip” ReVille. She said she didn’t realize her tardiness was an issue until she showed up and found Dennis fuming.
Voigt has denied telling Landess her tardiness wouldn’t be an issue. He has said she called his office just five minutes before the hearing was to start to say she would be late. He did his best to keep the judge informed of her whereabouts, but she never called the court herself to check in, he has said.
Landess said she had planned to delve into all of Glidden’s interviews and meetings with NCIS, as well as a recorded telephone conversation her client had with a psychic in Michigan. But when she arrived, prosecutors wanted to limit discussion to just four hours of the confession recording, she said.
Landess said a court official had also assured her that a DVD player and other technology would be available to view the recordings, but none of that was there when she arrived.
“The hearing I thought we were going to have is very different than the one we had,” she said. “That presented further confusion to the judge and made it look like I was in the wrong. But I understand. I felt the same way. I couldn’t understand why the stuff I thought we were there for wasn’t happening.”
The judge ending up cutting the hearing short after just one witness testified, and he ordered Landess to confer with prosecutors about how to proceed.
Landess said she intends to that. Next time, she said, she wants everyone involved to be on the same page about what will be covered and how.
Horton, 22, was stationed at the former Charleston Naval Base, assigned to the ocean minesweeper Exultant, when his body was found in a drainage ditch off Sheep Island Road on Nov. 14, 1992.
He lay face down in about 4 feet of water with his hands tied behind his back. He had been shot in the chest, struck on the head with a blunt object and sexually assaulted.
Glidden became a suspect after NCIS re-opened the case in late 2009. The following July, Berkeley County authorities arrested her; Thomas Solheim, 53, of Montauk, N.Y.; Charles Welty, 38, of Missoula, Mont.; Orval Douglas Emery, 40, of Hemet, Calif.
Solheim was a gunner’s mate who served aboard the Exultant along with Emery, an engineman, and Horton, a boatswain’s mate. Welty, an electrician’s mate, was assigned to the Frank Cable. Glidden was a hospital corpsman at the former Navy Hospital on Rivers Avenue.
Late last year, prosecutors dropped the charges against Emory, citing a lack of evidence.
No trial date has been set for Glidden and her codefendants.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.