Prosecutors in Hammond murder case find more documents withheld - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Prosecutors in Hammond murder case find more documents withheld from defense

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's office has found more evidence in the Dejuan Hammond murder case that "seems to have been overlooked" and acknowledges the material probably should have been turned over to defense attorneys years ago.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown said the prosecution did a thorough search of the Hammond police file after a mistrial was declared in April when a report of an interview with a witness was mistakenly not turned over to the defense -- a realization they discovered after the witness testified in the case.

"This is what we found," Jones Brown said of the 24 pages filed in the Hammond case on July 2. Among the newly filed evidence is a summary of a 2009 interview with Gregory Jett, who was briefly a potential suspect and summaries of anonymous calls to investigators about who they believed was responsible for the murder of Troya Sheckles.

In June, Judge Angela McCormick Bisig declined to dismiss the high-profile murder case despite "wrongful" actions by prosecutors in withholding evidence from the defense. Bisig said the prosecution's failure to turn over a summary of an interview with Hammond's former girlfriend was the result of a "mistake, sloppy review, and inadvertence, rather than a calculated attempt to force a mistrial."

Jones Brown acknowledged the recently released documents probably should have been provided to the defense years ago but said she doesn't believe any of it is exculpatory for Hammond, saying it was turned over "out of an abundance of caution."

"We wanted to be on the safe side and turn it over," Jones Brown said, adding that she did not know why previous prosecutors didn't give the defense the information. "I don’t want to mis-try this again."

But Ted Shouse, an attorney for Hammond, was furious about more evidence turning up five years after the investigation began into the murder of Sheckles. He learned of the new developments when contacted for comment by WDRB News.

“This is outrageous,” Shouse said, asking aloud why prosecutors hadn't thoroughly reviewed the police file years ago. “Twenty four pages and at least some of it is exculpatory and I learn about it from the press, not prosecutors.”

Shouse said he has never seen any of the recently released evidence.

"In 15 years, I've never seen a prosecution that is so unprofessional," Shouse said. "...What else is out there?" 

Hammond has been indicted for the murder of Sheckles, who was shot to death during the daytime in Shelby Park in 2009, allegedly to prevent her from testifying against Dejuan Hammond's brother, Lloyd Hammond.

"The allegation the Defendant Hammond faces in this case is one of murder, arguably the most serious of all crimes," Judge Bisig wrote last month in allowing the case to continue. "Further, the allegation involves the killing and silencing of a witness that was forced by court subpoena to appear in court to give testimony against another alleged murderer."

In May 2013, a jury recommended that Hammond's co-defendant, Steven Pettway, be sentenced to 55 years in prison for shooting Sheckles.

Prosecutors have said Pettway was acting at the behest of Dejuan, because Sheckles, 31, had agreed weeks earlier to testify against Lloyd Hammond in the 2006 murder of her boyfriend and two other men.

Dejuan Hammond's trial was originally supposed to be last fall, but the case was dismissed without prejudice because two key witnesses against Hammond could not be found.

At the time, Jones Brown said Hammond would be re-indicted if those witnesses were found. Hammond was indicted for the second time in January.

The latest trial in April ended in a mistrial after prosecutors acknowledged a report of an interview with Princess Bolin was mistakenly not turned over to the defense.

The interview with Bolin included a possible alibi for Hammond. She told police in 2009 that she and Hammond were at the mall when Troya Sheckles was shot to death in Shelby Park. Bolin later changed her story, testifying that Hammond sent her into the park to look for a woman and report back to him shortly before Sheckles was killed.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Lesousky told Bisig he was unsure why the report wasn't turned over to the defense sooner. Tom Van De Rostyne, the initial prosecutor on the case, testified earlier this month that he deleted the interview to protect Bolin's safety.

The recently found evidence includes a summary of an attempt to locate a man and see when he was last in Shelby Park; a request by investigators for visitor logs for Lloyd and Dejuan Hammond and summaries of anonymous calls about the shooting, including one caller who reported that Dejuan was involved in the murder.

Most interesting to the defense, at least upon initial review, was the summary of an interview with Jett. On April 7, 2009, a detective received a call that Jett, who was at the Wayside Christian Mission, had been "talking about committing a murder of a girl in a park in Louisville."

Detectives found Jett and he agreed to an interview where he said he remembered hearing about the murder but did not recall talking about it with anyone and had never even been in Shelby Park.

The actual recorded interview of Gregory Jett was turned over in the initial discovery filing back in 2011, Jones Brown said.

Asked if he would renew his motion to dismiss the case, based on more evidence being withheld, Shouse said it was too soon to say. His co-council, Annie O'Connell, said at this point, prosecutors should move to dismiss the case themselves. 

"I'm disappointed, puzzled, angry," O'Connell said. 


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