Defense attorneys cross examine Nancy Latham in alleged murder-for-hire case
The alleged target of a murder-for-hire plot, which authorities say was ordered by her husband, told a federal jury she did not have an affair while the two were married.
Nancy Latham, who now goes by the name Cannon since her divorce from the defendant, Chris Latham, was on the stand for a second day of the trial in the case which alleges Chris Latham, 50, and his girlfriend, Wendy Annette Moore, 37, hired individuals to kill Nancy in April 2013.
Before the questioning of Cannon began Tuesday in a Charleston courtroom, prosecutors argued against allowing defense attorneys to question her about an alleged affair, arguing it wasn't relevant to the case.
But U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said prosecutors opened that door of questioning when they told the jury during opening statements that Chris Latham's motive was money that he stood to lose in their divorce.
Gergel said defense attorneys have a right to mount a defense against that statement.
Moore and Latham's defense attorneys have said Cannon was not going to receive a large amount of money from the divorce because of alleged adultery.
Gergel allowed the questioning, but warned defense attorneys it was a slippery slope.
"You're playing with fire here. If the jury thinks you're saying she deserved it, that's a bad defense," he said before the jury entered the courtroom.
During the cross examination, Latham's attorney, Kate Schmutz, questioned Cannon about an alleged relationship with a man during her marriage to Latham. She told the jury she did not have an affair.
Schmutz also questioned Cannon about her brother, John Hall Cannon, who was convicted of murder in the 1970s in Columbia and paroled after 12 years behind bars after the state parole board determined he was a reformed man.
Cannon said her brother played no role in her divorce, except for loaning her money to pay for the private investigators hired in the divorce case and for one private investigator who he paid directly.
Prosecutors also called to the stand employees of Bank of America, where Latham and Moore worked, who testified about their role in an internal investigation of the pair to determine whether they had violated the bank's ethics policy.
Through their testimony, prosecutors presented bank phone records between Latham and Wendy Moore as well as the Internet searches and print histories of their computers.
Latham and Moore searched for maps from Google and information that was included in a hit package, given to the man prosecutors said was hired to kill Cannon, according to prosecutors.
Many of the bank employees testified about conversations they said they had with Latham after Moore's arrest.
One former employee told the jury Latham called a meeting after Moore's arrest with several employees of his office and told them Moore was being set up.
Samuel Yenawine, 38, of Louisville, Ky., was also charged in this case and prosecutors said he was the hired hitman. Yenawine was charged but committed suicide while jailed last year.
Aaron Wilkinson, 40, also of Louisville, was also charged and accused of helping Yenawine in the alleged scheme. He testified last week as part of a plea agreement after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting murder-for-hire last month.
Wilkinson alerted police about the alleged plot after being arrested for having a suspended driver's license. He'd been pulled over in Charleston's East Side, where he bought heroin, according to his testimony.
The trial began last week and is expected to continue throughout this week.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.