Tempers flared and a judge took the stand during testimony in the post-conviction petition case of Marlon Kiser Monday.
At a hearing, Kiser's attorneys tried to draw out details of an alleged affair between a former victim-witness coordinator and retired Division 3 Judge Steve Bevil, who is now dead. On the stand, Cindy Richardson categorically denied having a sexual relationship with the judge, who at the time was trying Kiser's case.
"I think he liked me, I liked him, it was mutual, but that was it," Richardson said.
As victim-witness coordinator, Richardson worked for prosecutors between 2001 and 2003. She said she was asked to resign in 2003. She drank too much at the annual district attorney's conference, she said, and she had wanted to leave anyway.
That year, Kiser was sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy Donald Bond. He's been appealing his case ever since, although a grand jury upheld his death penalty sentence in 2009.
His execution was set for 2010, but that was delayed when his lawyers filed a motion to review evidence. A post-conviction petition for relief was filed on his behalf, and witnesses have testified at two previous hearings.
At Monday's hearing, Murfreesboro attorney Paul Bruno asked Richardson if she told others at the conference that she could influence Judge Bevel.
"I don't know, there was a lot of alcohol," Richardson said.
Her husband, attorney Mike Richardson, called the accusations "nonsense and lies."
"She told me Judge Bevel liked her and it became uncomfortable," Mike Richardson said.
But attorney Hank Hill testified that during a dinner that he attended with his wife, Cindy Richardson said she was having a secret affair with the judge.
"She indicated there was a sexual relationship," Hill said.
Hill is married to Times Free Press staff writer Karen Hill.
Division I Judge Barry Steelman was executive assistant district attorney general at the time of Kiser's case. He testified Monday that he remembered a meeting at the public defender's office involving Kiser's defense team, Cox and himself.
Former public defender Mary Ann Green said she, too, remembered the meeting, at which Cox informed her that Richardson had left, either because of her relationship with or comments she made about Judge Bevil. Green was one of Kiser's defense attorneys. She said the defense team did not file any motions because they trusted Judge Bevil's judgment.
To see any post-conviction relief, Kiser's attorneys will need to prove that the alleged affair, as well as other issues with the investigation and defense, affected the outcome of the trial.
"Any time there's any indication that a judge was engaged in misconduct with essentially the employee of one of the attorneys handling the case, that's absolutely concerning," Kiser's attorney, Luke Evans, said.
When he took the stand, Mike Richardson condemned the defense team for dredging up accusations.
"I hope you enjoy this public spectacle you've created," Richardson said.
"Nobody's enjoying any of it," Bruno said.
Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.