By JEFFREY McMURRAY
Attorneys for a former Kentucky lawmaker accused of killing his ex-fiancee argued Thursday that child pornography and other evidence found on a computer hard drive should be disallowed because it was obtained through an improper police search.
During a hearing, Steve Nunn’s attorneys cross-examined law enforcement witnesses about the computer drive that once belonged to Nunn, the son of former Gov. Louie Nunn.
Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine is expected to rule on whether to admit the evidence Aug. 19 during the next hearing in the case.
Todd Iddings, a Lexington police detective who led the investigation into the murder of Nunn’s former fiancee Amanda Ross, said a search of the drive was halted after an image of child pornography was found on it. A department expert on computer crimes against children said the image was of a girl between 10 and 12 years old.
Most of the two-hour hearing focused on whether the hard drive had been intentionally abandoned by Nunn or was personal property he intended to retrieve later. Some witnesses even gave conflicting reports on whether the box containing the hard drive, a photo album and various pornographic images was sealed with tape.
“It wasn’t just like one or two pieces of tape,” said Nunn’s friend Steve Hutchison, who gave the box to authorities. “It was taped in a way that someone wanted it to stay that way.”
Hutchison said on Sept. 10, the night before Ross was shot to death at her Lexington apartment, Nunn went to his house to drop off the box and a vase that police said contained marijuana. The next morning, after hearing reports of the murder, Hutchison called Barren County officials to tell them about the box.
Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton testified he opened the box to make sure it didn’t contain anything harmful. He said he didn’t recall it being taped shut and didn’t believe he needed a search warrant.
“I didn’t know what my probable cause would have been to get the search warrant in the first place,” Eaton said.
“Exactly,” replied Nunn’s attorney, Bette Niemi.
Goodwine asked Eaton if his testimony was that he didn’t believe he needed a search warrant because he didn’t actually search the box. Eaton answered, “yes.”
Besides pleading not guilty to murder, Nunn also has pleaded not guilty to wanton endangerment for allegedly brandishing a firearm when he was approached by police at a cemetery hours after Ross was gunned down.
When police arrived at the graveyard in south-central Kentucky, they found Nunn sitting against a headstone where his parents are buried. Nunn allegedly fired a shot after police saw him, then threw down the gun. Nunn was bleeding from self-inflicted wrist wounds.
Iddings said inside the car Nunn was driving was a manila folder labeled with a derogatory phrase that contained seminude images of Ross and stationery from his 2003 campaign for governor.
Niemi pointed out that he had received various search warrants during the course of the investigation, including for the vehicle and Nunn’s home, and contrasted that with a lack of a warrant for the box.
Iddings said he didn’t know the box had ever been taped shut until weeks later when he spoke with Hutchison.
“I didn’t ask the question if the box was sealed or not,” Iddings said. “When we took it, the box was open.”