MUNFORDVILLE – Motions filed in Albert Stephens' case in Hart County Circuit Court in answer to allegations made by the defense were taken under submission earlier this week for a ruling by the judge.
Stephens, 54, of Glasgow, is accused of shooting Chris Holder, a Cave City businessman and former mayor of Cave City, in November 2016.
Stephens was initially indicted in February 2017 on a first-degree assault charge, but was indicted in May 2017 on a murder charge following Holder's death.
In August, the defense alleged that at least 10 of the grand jurors from the May grand jury were also grand jurors on the February grand jury and that Kentucky State Police Detective Jeremy Hodges had made several false statements to the grand jury on May 2, 2016, including one regarding events leading up to the shooting.
The defense also asked in August for the indictment against Stephens be dismissed due to missing evidence instruction, Holder's clothing not being preserved and failure by the commonwealth to preserve grand jury testimony recordings from Stephens due to an equipment malfunction.
Hart County Circuit Court Judge Jack Seay asked prosecution and defense attorneys in August to submit briefs regarding the motions by mid-September.
Earlier this week, the prosecution filed a motion stating that no materially false statements were made by Hodges to the grand jury on May 2, 2016 because “... there is no evidence that tends to show that Detective Hodges made the alleged false statements in order to affect the outcome of the preceding [sic]. His testimony was not heavy-handed. He simply presented the facts of the case to the grand jury to the best of his memory.”
The prosecution continued that the offense occurred on Nov. 23, 2016, four months before Holder's death. The grand jury presentation and testimony occurred on May 2, 2017.
“The most likely reason for any inexact testimony by Detective Hodges is because more than five months had passed since he had interviewed Tammy Holder (wife of Chris Holder), and numerous months had passed since he had been fully immersed in the investigation,” the motion said.
Statements the defense claims that were falsely made by Hodges “... are immaterial to the main issue in the case, which is whether or not the defendant was acting in self-defense. On that issue the defendant testified before the grand jury,” the motion said.
As for the defense's allegation that the grand jury was not properly instructed, the prosecution said in the motion that the defense has not cited any state law regarding a requirement of the prosecution to read or instruct grand jurors on Kentucky's self-defense laws.
The prosecution asked Hodges to read Kentucky Revised Statute 503.050, which addresses the use of physical force in self-protection, to the grand jury.
After Hodges' and Stephens testified, the prosecution returned to the grand jury room and went over homicide statutes and self-defense statutes once again, the motion said.
As for the defense's issue with the prosecution that KRS 503.055, which addresses defensive force in regard to dwellings or occupied vehicles, was not read to the grand jury, the prosecution said there is no requirement to present self-defense statutes to the grand jury and that KRS 503.055 does not apply to Stephens' case, the motion said.
In response to the defense's allegations that Holder's clothing was not preserved, the prosecution stated in its motion that Holder was shot in the stomach and rushed to the hospital.
“The main objective at that time was to keep Chris Holder alive, not to collect his clothing as evidence. Furthermore, at that time, it was unknown if there would be any criminal prosecution of Albert Stephens,” the motion said.
The prosecution continued that it is unsure what happened to Holder's clothing but “... the fact that they were not retained as evidence by the EMTs or the hospital staff is understandable given the circumstances, and should not be held against the commonwealth.”
The defense also claimed the prosecution failed to preserve a piece of notebook paper on which were written telephone numbers. The prosecution said in its motion that there is no evidence the telephone numbers would reveal anything.
The defense further claims that a paper bindle containing a white powdery substance that was inside Holder's wallet was never submitted for testing.
The prosecution said in its motion that it “... can only assume that the information for this argument is coming from Gary and Ann Logsdon, because the undersigned knows of no other discovery which indicates that Gary and Ann Logsdon relinquished anything to Detective Hodges. Without more proof that these items actually existed and that the claim is not a story being fabricated by Gary and Ann Logsdon, there's no grounds for dismissal and the defendant should not receive a missing evidence instruction for same.”
Another allegation made by the defense against the prosecution was in regard to its failure to preserve grand jury testimony.
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.
“Given the fact that it was caused by a mechanical failure, the court should find that is good cause and should not dismiss the indictment as a result,” the prosecution said in its motion.
As for the defense's claim that Stephens' due process rights have been violated and is entitled to a dismissal, the prosecution said in order for that to happen the defense needs to show two things: the intentional destruction of evidence or the inadvertently destruction of evidence outside normal practices and that evidence was destroyed or released outside of normal practices.
The prosecution stated in its motion that the defendant has “made no showing that anything destroyed or not possessed had any exculpatory value.”
The prosecution also stated that the defense's claim that the indictment against Stephens should be dismissed because of the missing evidence instruction is premature.
“A decision on a missing evidence instruction is not appropriate until the evidence is submitted at trial,” the prosecution said in its motion.