Case to exhume body of former D.A. continues in Knoxville

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Knoxville (WVLT) – The case involving the body of a prominent Knoxville lawyer was back before a judge on Friday.

Raynella Dossett Leath was charged with murder in the 2003 for the death of her second husband, David Leath.

Now prosecutors want to know more about how her first husband, Ed Dossett, died.

That’s why prosecutors have been pushing to exhume Dossett’s body, perform an autopsy, and try to figure out if she should be charged with his death.

“You're going to have to convince me that there's a justification," said Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner.

Step one in convincing the judge came with legal arguments in December.

Step two came on Friday when the assistant chief medical examiner was called to the stand.

The 1992 autopsy ruled Dossett died after being trampled by cattle.

Now, looking at a drug report that was never considered then, the official cause of death has come into doubt.

"The toxicology is concerning enough that I am leaning toward the cause of death being intoxication of morphine,” said Darinka Mileusnik-Polchan, assistant chief medical examiner.

But there is a catch 22.

To truly answer the question, the medical examiner needs access to the body and in order to get the judge to grant that access, some tough questions have to be answered.

The top question to be asked is, ‘would a new autopsy do any good?’

If it would, should the state use that evidence against Leath at her trial for the 2003 murder, or to open a new investigation into Dossett's death?

It's up to the judge and even the lawyers admit they have no idea what he'll do.

“I don't know the judge that well to read him that well,” said Richard Fisher, the special prosecutor.

After filing more legal documents over the next two weeks, lawyers are scheduled to go before the judge for another hearing on February 15.

Until then, Leath remains free on bond.

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