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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - Attorneys for the man convicted last year in the murder of Troya Sheckles have asked for a new trial based on evidence recently discovered by prosecutors that the defense said could have changed the outcome.
After being convicted by a jury in May 2013, Steven Pettway was sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing Sheckles in Shelby Park in 2009 to prevent her from testifying in another trial.
In recent months, the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has acknowledged failing to properly turn over evidence in the case of Pettway’s co-defendant, Dejuan Hammond - evidence which includes information about Pettway.
Just last week Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine testified that his office had "clearly" concealed some evidence and not turned it over to defense attorneys, though he didn't know the reasoning behind the decision.
Thus far, Judge Angela McCormick Bisig has declined to dismiss Hammond’s case despite what she has called "wrongful" actions by prosecutors in withholding evidence.
In the motion filed recently in Pettway’s case, Assistant Public Defender Jay Lambert claims the newly released evidence is “exculpatory” for Pettway and was never provided, “which necessitates Pettway receiving a new trial.”
The defense will make the motion for a new trial in court next week.
Lambert accuses former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Van De Rostyne of intentionally removing a summary of an interview with Princess Bolin, Hammond’s former girlfriend, that contradicted her trial testimony against Pettway.
In the initial interview, Bolin said she and Hammond were at the mall when Sheckles was murdered and she said she didn’t know Pettway very well.
At his trial, however, Bolin implicated Hammond and Pettway in the planning and slaying of Sheckles. Defense attorneys could not properly cross-examine Bolin because they did not know about the contradictory statements, Lambert wrote in his motion.
Included in Lambert’s motion is an affidavit signed by Pettway that he “had no knowledge” of the evidence “that should have been turned over.”
And the motion includes a letter from Wine and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney James Lesousky in April acknowledging that prosecutors realized during the Hammond trial that the interview summary had not been turned over to defense attorneys.
During his testimony last week, Wine admitted the initial Bolin interview was intentionally not turned over to defense attorneys until mid-way through Hammond’s trial earlier this year – which caused a mistrial – but added that he did not know the reasoning. Van De Rostyne has testified that he was trying to protect Bolin’s safety.
Since Judge Bisig declared a mistrial in the Hammond case after the old evidence was found and turned over to his defense, Pettway’s attorneys say it is clear that their client couldn’t have gotten a fair trial “when he was prevented from utilizing that same statement,” according to the motion.
Bisig had said the prosecution's failure to turn over the interview summary was the result of a "mistake, sloppy review, and inadvertence, rather than a calculated attempt to force a mistrial."
But Bisig allowed Hammond's attorneys to question Wine by avowal on Friday, which means the judge would not give the testimony consideration in her decision on whether to dismiss the case but said it could be given for the record in case of an appeal.
Also on Friday, Hammond defense attorneys Ted Shouse and Annie O'Connell renewed their motion to dismiss Hammond's case in the wake of more recently found evidence turned over to the defense earlier this month.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown has said the prosecution did a thorough search of the Hammond police file after a mistrial was declared in April - when the report of an interview with a witness was mistakenly not turned over to the defense - and found 24 more pages.
Jones Brown declined to comment on the recent motion by Pettway's attorneys.
Sheckles, who was gunned down as she watched her young cousin play in Shelby Park in 2009, was supposed to testify against Lloyd Hammond, accused of killing two others in 2006, including Sheckles' boyfriend.
Pettway was found guilty of her murder and intimidating a witness in May. Prosecutors said he was acting at the behest of Lloyd Hammond's brother, Dejuan Hammond.