Stephens' trial postponed due to grand jury testimony issue

Signs asking for "Justice for Chris" could be seen along U.S. 31-W from Cave City to Munfordville on Monday, which was when the trial of Albert Stephens was scheduled to start. The trial was postponed on Monday due to an issue involving grand jury testimony. Gina Kinslow / Glasgow Daily Times  

MUNFORDVILLE — The trial of Albert Stephens was scheduled to begin Monday in Hart Circuit Court, but was postponed due to an issue involving a grand jury recording. 

Stephens, of Glasgow, is accused in the November 2016 shooting death of Christopher Lynn Holder, 57, a Cave City businessman and former mayor of Cave City.

Holder was shot at Gary and Ann Logsdon's residence near Hardyville and succumbed to his injuries while a patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville on March 23, 2017. The Logsdons are the parents of Tammy J. Atwell Holder, who is Christopher Lynn Holder's widow.

Stephens was initially indicted in February 2017 on a first-degree assault charge, but was indicted again in May 2017 on a murder charge following Christopher Lynn Holder's death.

Joe Ballard, assistant commonwealth's attorney for Hart County, explained Stephens' attorneys continue to argue that the prosecution failed to preserve the grand jury testimony of Stephens in May 2017 due to an equipment malfunction.

A computer used to record the last part of the grand jury presentation failed due to the memory on the recording device being full. The prosecution submitted notes regarding the unrecorded testimony prepared by the prosecution's legal assistant.

“There have been two previous motions to dismiss based on the recording not being properly made; that it was not recorded,” Ballard said.

He went on to say that there is a possibility that he could be called as a witness in order to explain that it was a technical error and not an intentional act on the commonwealth's part.

“There is a rule that says if prosecutors can be called as a witness they shall disqualify themselves from the case,” Ballard said. “We are trying to sort that out to figure out what should happen from here.”

The case is now set for review on Sept. 17.

Attempts to reach Stephens' attorneys by deadline were unsuccessful.

In addition, a ruling has been issued regarding two motions filed in a civil case that relate to Stephens' murder case.

The Estate of Christopher Lynn Holder, Anthony Todd Holder, executor, filed suit against Stephens and Tammy J. Atwell Holder, requesting personal injuries and wrongful death.

The lawsuit states Tammy J. Atwell Holder and Stephens were involved in a romantic relationship and Tammy J. Atwell Holder “assisted and encouraged Albert … to shoot Christopher … with a deadly firearm or otherwise failed to perform a legal duty to prevent the wrongful act — with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of this criminal act.”

In May, Tammy J. Atwell Holder filed a motion for a protective order for a period of time during which the murder prosecution against Stephens is pending. The motion was precipitated by the plaintiff's notice to take Tammy J. Atwell Holder's deposition and the plaintiff's request for her to produce certain documents at the deposition.

It was pointed out in the judge's ruling regarding Tammy J. Atwell Holder's motion for a protective order that under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution no person can be a witness against themselves in a criminal case.

The plaintiff has requested that Tammy J. Atwell Holder produce numerous records for the deposition, including credit card statements, bank statements, application for life insurance benefits, income tax records, telephone records and statements related to the criminal investigation.

“The Fifth Amendment may 'protect an individual from complying with a subpoena for the production of his personal records in his possession because the very act of production may constitute a compulsory authentication of incriminating information,” the judge said in his ruling.

If Tammy J. Atwell Holder is objecting to producing any of the records based upon the Fifth Amendment, the Court will require her to provide the documents to the court reporter in a sealed envelope so the Court can perform an “in camera inspection” after she has given her deposition.

Tammy J. Atwell Holder claims the request for producing the documents is an “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or under burden or expense.”

“This Court finds merit with Tammy's complaint that some of the requested information is open-ended without any time limitation or that the time limitation is too long. As a result this Court finds that all of the plaintiff's requests shall be limited to Jan. 1, 2015 through the present,” the judge said in his ruling.

The remaining plaintiff's requests appears to be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, the judge said in his ruling.

The judge denied Tammy J. Atwell Holder's motion for a protective order, with the exception that all discovery be limited to the time period of Jan. 1, 2015 through the present, but granted the plaintiff's motion to have her appear for her deposition.