Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

June 22, 2011

Judge to decide relevance of Nunn's writings

BRETT BARROUQUERE
Associated Press

GLASGOW —  

LEXINGTON — A judge is weighing whether jurors in the upcoming murder trial of a former state lawmaker may see a batch of writings seized from his car after his arrest on a charge of killing his one-time fiancée.

Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine said Tuesday that the writings become problematic if Nunn doesn't testify on his own behalf. The notes include Steve Nunn's recounting of parts of his relationship with 29-year-old Amanda Ross.

"They go to the defendant's relationship with Ms. Ross," Goodwine said during a hearing. "They are in his handwriting."

The letters were one of several evidentiary matters Goodwine took up as attorneys prepare for Nunn's trial, scheduled to start with jury selection Aug. 1. Nunn, the son of former Kentucky Gov. Louis B. Nunn, is charged with shooting Ross to death outside her Lexington home on Sept. 11, 2009.

Prosecutors say they will seek a death sentence if Nunn is convicted. Nunn's attorneys say he was suffering from extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the shooting.

Goodwine ruled that witnesses may testify generally about Ross' character, her prior relationships, and her alcohol and drug use. But, the judge said, she'll wait until trial before deciding if jurors can hear that autopsy results showed cocaine in Ross' system.

Nunn, dressed in a dark, pin striped suit and shackled at the ankles, took notes and whispered to his attorneys through much of the hearing, At one point, as attorneys and Goodwine spoke at the bench, Nunn turned with his chin resting on his left hand, looked at members of the Ross family and shook his head. After that, he periodically glanced at the family, who appeared to have no reaction.

Both prosecutors and Nunn's lawyers acknowledged that the former lawmaker and Ross had a rocky relationship in the last months of her life and that the relationship will likely be central to the trial. But what pieces of the couple's interactions are shown to jurors remains undecided.

Investigators seized the letters from a folder in Nunn's car after arresting him at a graveyard in south-central Kentucky where his parents are buried. The witness list stemmed from a case in which Nunn was charged with assaulting Ross. Nunn entered an Alford plea, acknowledging he could be convicted, but he did not admit guilt in the case.

Prosecutors objected to the letters being allowed as evidence, unless Nunn testifies. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn said without Nunn's testimony, there is no way to question the contents of the letters.

The letters, which were not been released to the public, contain a variety of things, including one to Ross' mother, Diana Ross, which Red Corn said was intended to "humiliate Amanda in the eyes of her mother."

"These things were being made for a purpose," Red Corn said. "They're not state of mind things. He's telling his version of what happened."

One of Nunn's attorneys, Bette J. Niemi, said the letters, some of which are not "particularly rational or logical," show Nunn's state of mind in the months leading up to the shootings. Niemi also noted that the letter to Diana Ross was never sent, calling it "an expression of where his head was at."

"This goes to the relationship and what he was experiencing," Niemi said. "It's the complete picture."

Steve Nunn made a name for himself in Kentucky politics, spending some 15 years in the state legislature and making an unsuccessful run for governor in 2003. He failed to win re-election to the state House in 2006.

Nunn had been serving as deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, but was put on administrative leave in February and resigned in March after he was charged with domestic violence against Ross, with whom he had lived for several months. Under a protective order obtained by Ross, Nunn also was prohibited from possessing firearms.