Jason Chen’s attorney files motion to vacate indictment in Jasmine Pace murder case

Staff Photo La Shawn Pagán / Jason Chen enters Division III of the Hamilton County Criminal Court on Tuesday for his hearing.

Attorneys for Jason Chen — who was indicted on murder charges in the death of Chattanooga woman Jasmine Pace — have requested a new preliminary hearing, saying in court Tuesday they were denied access to relevant body camera footage and could not determine if evidence against Chen was obtained illegally.

"The defendant was denied a fair opportunity to investigate whether the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing had been illegally or unlawfully obtained," an April motion to vacate the indictment said.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Boyd Patterson on Tuesday set a June 26 date to address the motion.

Chen's attorney, Josh Weiss, claims he was not given the opportunity to properly cross-examine Zack Crawford, the investigator on the case, during Chen's preliminary hearing — where probable cause is established before a case is bound over the grand jury.

At the preliminary hearing in February, Weiss had his request to call Catrina Pace, the victim's mother, to testify denied by Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Larry Ables.

In the state's June 1 response to Weiss' motion, Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp said the court ruled correctly on limiting Crawford's cross-examination and denying the request to call Catrina Pace as a witness.

"Just because a defendant has a right to present evidence to rebut probable cause does not mean that a defendant has a right to call all of the state's witnesses to question them," the state's response said.

Catrina Pace was not subpoenaed for the preliminary hearing, the state said, and her attorney told prosecutors "that should Catrina Pace be put on the stand, she would not answer any questions and would elect to assert her right against self-incrimination."

The state's response called Weiss' motion a "fishing expedition" trying to bypass the normal process, adding that if any error occurred during the hearing, it was harmless because the case resulted in an indictment.

Also Tuesday, Chen was declared indigent by the court after a finding that his family had "exhausted all of their funds" paying for legal fees.

Chen has been indicted on two counts, first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse, after Pace was reported missing by her family Nov. 27 when she didn't show up for Thanksgiving.

Pace's body was found Dec. 1 near Suck Creek and appeared to have been stabbed around 60 times, according to Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Steven Cogswell's testimony at Chen's Dec. 9 bond hearing, where his bond was set at $5 million — the highest ever in Hamilton County.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.