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Overton’s Attorney Seeks New Judge for Retrial : Courts: He says jurist could carry opinions from first trial of man accused of poisoning his wife. The judge says he’s confident he could remain impartial.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seeking what he called “a fresh start,” the attorney in the retrial of accused murderer Richard K. Overton filed a motion Wednesday asking that a new judge preside over his client’s retrial.

Attorney George A. Peters Jr. also said outside Orange County Superior Court that he has new evidence on the cause of death of Overton’s wife, Janet, which he believes will lead to Overton’s acquittal. The part-time college professor and computer consultant of Dana Point is accused of using cyanide to poison his schoolteacher wife, who died in January, 1988.

Peters refused to discuss the new evidence.

Peters has said previously that he wants a new judge to hear the case because of concerns that Superior Court Judge David O. Carter may have preconceived opinions about Overton from the earlier trial.

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“My opinion is that we’d be better off if we started out fresh” with a different judge, Peters said.

Carter declared a mistrial in the case last month after an appellate court ordered a new trial for Overton. The 4th District Court of Appeal concluded that an unusual, 14-month recess in the case could have allowed jurors to harden their opinions about Overton’s guilt or innocence.

The recess was necessary in part because Overton’s attorney was suffering from severe depression.

Overton has been free on bail and living in Dana Point while his case, considered by the parties involved to be one of the most technically complex murder trials in county history, has worked its way through the appellate courts.

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During the hearing last month, Carter said he was anticipating such a challenge, but believed he could continue to be fair and impartial in the case. Carter also said at the time that he wanted to remain on the case because he believes his experience in the complicated trial would ultimately save time and taxpayers’ money in the retrial.

After Peters filed the motion Wednesday, Carter said he would postpone hearing any new motions in the case. A bail hearing for Overton was rescheduled for Friday and will probably be heard by a different judge.

The recess began in July, 1992, after defense attorney Robert D. Chatterton told the judge that he had doubts about the truthfulness of his client’s testimony while on the witness stand. Soon after that, Chatterton slipped into a severe depression that doctors said was triggered by a chemical imbalance in his brain.


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