The special counsel in the civil service case of former Sandusky police chief Kim Nuesse began a round of witness depositions Friday that will delay the trial until September.
Attorney Margaret Cannon plans to collect testimony from all but five or six of 65 witnesses for Nuesse. Depositions will be taken at the city service center on Cement Avenue for 10-12 days, with each lasting approximately one hour.
Witnesses subpoenaed by Cannon to testify Friday included Huron police Chief Randy Glovinsky, Fraternal Order of Police labor representative Dennis Sterling, Erie County 911 coordinator Bob Hall, city police Sgt. Danny Lewis, Erie CountySheriff's Capt. Steve Wescott, Bay View police Chief Helen Prosowski and city IT technician Tom Whitted.
Nuesse's attorney, K. Ronald Bailey, may depose one or all of Cannon's 16 witnesses for the trial once her depositions arecompleted.
The process will delay the trial until Sept. 23. Before Cannon requested the depositions, the trial was scheduled to begin in August.
Cannon, a Cleveland attorney, was appointed special counsel for the trial after county prosecutor Kevin Baxter recused himself, citing a conflict of interest.
Bailey said he's undecided how many of Cannon's witnesses he will depose.
Their statements are already included in an investigative report of Nuesse compiled by Murman and Associates in mid-May.
"It comes down to economics. It's a waste of time and money to take a deposition to find out what you pretty much know they're going to say," he said.
Called discovery depositions, they are used as an information tool by the trial attorneys.
Each deposition is attended by the subpoenaed witness, the legal counsel and a court reporter.
A city commissioner may be selected as a hearing officer to keep testimony confined within the rules of evidence.
Bailey said not all attorneys consider it important to depose witnesses.
He questions its worth, both because he's already aware of how the witness will testify and because testimony can be subjective.
"Nobody has a perfect memory," he said. "People will remember something in a certain way, and after a while they'll convince themselves that's the way it happened. Sometimes, people remember something that you know logically doesn't fit."
Depositions offer a fresher recollection of events, but it's best to take them early, when the witness' memory is clearer, Bailey said. They can also provide clarity during the trial when a witness contradicts a previous statement.
"The surprises come more at the trial, when (the witnesses) say something they didn't say in the deposition," he said.
A lawyer is permitted to lead the witness during the procedure, "but the reality is that if you lead you're not learning," he added. "Trying cases is like trying to paint a picture. It's an art. It's not a science."
Presiding Judge Joseph Cirigliano said depositions are sometimes worthwhile, and sometimes not.
"Depositions are generally a necessity," he said. "If I'm on the opposite side I want to know what the people are going to say. It's a discovery process. Sometimes they're not worth the time that's invested, because what the people say means nothing, leads to nothing."
Cannon was not available for comment.
Find a full list of witnesses for Nuesse and for the city in Sunday's Register.