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Archive for Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chemist’s trial transferred to Kansas court

August 11, 2010

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The trial of a Missouri chemist accused of stockpiling a poison was transferred Tuesday to Kansas, after federal judges in western Missouri disqualified themselves because prosecutors planned to offer evidence that the defendant once spoke of pumping deadly fumes into the federal courthouse in Kansas City.

Hessam S. Ghane, 60, of Independence, has been in custody since 2003, when federal prosecutors charged him with illegally stockpiling potassium cyanide, a poison prohibited under the International Chemical Weapons Convention.

Ghane had been scheduled to go on trial Aug. 16 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, after several delays because of concerns about his mental competency.

But Chief U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan transferred the case Tuesday to Judge Kathryn Vratil, chief U.S. District judge in Kansas, according to The Kansas City Star. A new trial date will be set.

The transfer came one day after Judge Ortrie Smith disqualified himself from presiding over the trial and canceled it, saying his impartiality could be questioned.

Smith’s order came after he learned that prosecutors anticipated calling a witness who had been jailed with Ghane. That witness would testify that Ghane told him he had once intended to introduce cyanide fumes into the downtown Kansas City federal courthouse through the air conditioning system, according to court documents.

All other federal judges in the Western District of Missouri joined Smith in disqualifying themselves.

Ghane’s attorneys filed a motion Monday indicating his defense may involve the argument that he possessed the chemical to possibly commit suicide and not to cause harm to anyone else.

Ghane was charged after authorities searched his home in Independence and found a bottle that contained 177 grams of potassium cyanide, according to testimony at a previous court hearing. The chemical can be fatal if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

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