Two noteworthy Morgan County Court cases met at a crossroads in front of 2 different visiting judges in Morgan County Court yesterday afternoon.
21 year old Dustin Finlaw made his first appearance as his own counsel in Morgan County Court in front of visiting Sangamon County Judge Jack Davis yesterday afternoon. Davis called the 3 year old murder case for a pre-trial conference. Finlaw faces first degree murder charges and obstructing justice for the stabbing death of 43 year old Robert Utter of Rushville in Meredosia in May 2018. Finlaw was granted the option to defend himself in court last month with Morgan County Public Defender Tom Piper appointed as standby counsel. Judge Davis asked Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll if discovery had been granted to Finlaw since the June court date. Noll indicated he had turned over an accordion file worth of reports and statements along with hours of video to Finlaw. Finlaw told the court that he had filed a motion for a speedy trial the day before the hearing. Judge Davis granted the motion setting a pre-trial status hearing for Friday, August 20th at 1:30 in the afternoon, with a jury pre-trial conference for September 8th and the jury trial set to begin on September 14th. Finlaw was remanded back to the custody of the Morgan County Sheriff.
Minutes later across the hall in Courtroom B, visiting Scott County Judge David Cherry called a pre-trial conference for the April case of 30 year old Edward Baldwin III of Jacksonville. Baldwin has been charged with failure to report an accident with an injury and failure to report an accident resulting in a death. Baldwin is accused of leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in the death from injuries in the crash of 22 year old Jackson Gregory in a nearby hospital two weeks later.
Morgan County Public Defender Tom Piper asked for a lengthy continuance in the case because of his need to be standby counsel in the Finlaw case and would not be able to meet a September jury call. Judge Cherry then admonished Baldwin of his in absentia rights and set a pre-trial hearing for September 29th at 1:30th with a jury trial set for October 4th. Baldwin is free on his own recognizance after posting bond back in April.