Aggravated child abuse case delayed after defendants switch attorneys

Joe and Charlotte Whitaker appeared before Judge Lisa Rice in Washington County Criminal Court Thursday for their first appearance with their new attorneys. David Robbins now represents Joe Whitaker and Kyle Vaughn represents Charlotte Whitaker after the couple fired Knoxville attorney Charles Currier.

A trial had been scheduled to start later this month, but the attorney switch delayed it. There was no reason given publicly for Currier’s firing.

The Whitakers were indicted in September 2013 on charges of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect in what prosecutors called a “severe” case of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Currier had intended to challenge the science of that diagnosis, and there was a lengthy motions hearing in August for Rice to determine their status as experts. Robbins and Vaughn indicated they will use the same experts Currier had procured.

At the time of the Whitakers’ arrest in 2013, Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle said the doctor who examined the couple’s 7-month-old son said the child had some of the most severe head injuries he’d ever seen that didn’t end in death.

At Thursday’s hearing, Rice set a Dec. 16 motion hearing and said the trial will likely be scheduled for March or April. The trial will be set after attorneys determine when their expert witnesses are available.

Both Whitakers remain free on a $100,000 bond each.