A Casper man serving a child pornography sentence is waiting for word from the U.S. Supreme Court on his last-ditch hope to have his conviction overturned.
Nathaniel "Ned" Solon says a computer virus infected his computer with illegal images of children. He was convicted in 2008, and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the convictions in February.
Solon's lawyer appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. Solon argues that his trial judge undermined his defense by leaving the courtroom to mail letters and by belittling an expert witness.
The judge, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer, left the courtroom during parts of Solon's closing arguments. Brimmer returned a few moments later, saying his secretary was out and he needed to mail some letters.
Solon's lawyer, Megan Hayes, says the judge's signal that mailing letters was more important that Solon's closing argument could have swayed the jury.
"A judge who signals to a jury that the defense is not worth listening to abandons his or her constitutional role as an impartial adjudicator," Hayes wrote.
Solon also takes issue with comments Brimmer made about a computer expert called to talk about computer viruses. Brimmer questioned the expert's fee and told Solon's attorneys not to use "this woman with pretty exalted ideas of her worth,'" according to court documents.
In the Denver court's 2-1 decision against Solon, dissenting judge Carlos F. Lucero chastised the judge for belittling the expert in front of the jury.
"The district court instructed the jury that Solon's primary witness was dishonest and that Solon's theory was unworthy of the court's time. It may as well have directed a verdict of guilty," Lucero wrote.
Hayes, who had previously announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, said it would be months before hearing whether the high court would hear Solon's case. Meanwhile, Solon is serving a six-year sentence in solitary confinement at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan.