LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- For a second time, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig has found that prosecutors improperly withheld evidence from defense attorneys for murder defendant Dejuan Hammond.
And for a second time, Bisig has declined to dismiss the case based on the withheld evidence and alleged prosecutorial conduct, meaning Hammond will stand trial for the murder of Troya Sheckles next month.
While Bisig wrote in her ruling Friday that she understands the "continued frustration and outrage" defense attorneys have because of old evidence in the case only recently being turned over, "the end result of dismissing criminal murder charges again seems an extreme sanction."
Hammond has been indicted for the 2009 murder of Troya Sheckles, who was gunned down in Shelby Park shortly after agreeing to testify in a murder case against Hammond's brother, Lloyd.
"I appreciate that the judge understands and validates our frustration," said attorney Ted Shouse, one of Dejuan Hammond's lawyers. "We’ll be ready for trial in August."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown declined to comment on the judge's ruling.
Judge Bisig did say she will allow Hammond's attorneys to review the police department 's investigative file to ensure they have all of the information related to the case. And the judge will allow the defense to "inform the jury" that evidence long in possession of investigators was only recently turned over.
Earlier this month, 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. An internal investigation is ongoing, he said. Bisig had declined to dismiss the case despite what she has called "wrongful" actions by prosecutors in withholding evidence from the defense.
Bisig had 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."
Dense 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.
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 the girlfriend interview with a witness was mistakenly not turned over to the defense - and found 24 more pages.
Among the newly filed evidence was 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. Shouse asked Bisig to either dismiss the case or allow the defense to look at the police file themselves.
In her ruling Friday, Bisig said the newly released evidence should have been turned over as part of the original discovery in the case, but she noted that the information could both help and hurt Hammond's case. Two of the documents were summaries of anonymous phone messages that specifically identify Dejuan Hammond as the person involved in Sheckles' murder, Bisig wrote.
And Bisig wrote that defense attorneys already had the recorded interview of Jett - the police summary was what was only recently released - though it was mislabeled.
"The recently disclosed paragraph summary of the interview does not substantially change defense council's ability to argue or conduct further investigation into this evidence," the judge wrote.
Bisig's ruling notes that evidence recently turned over to defense attorneys years after Sheckles was murdered contained information that could both help and harm their case.
In May 2013, a jury recommended that Hammond's co-defendant, Steven Pettway, be sentenced to 55 years in prison for shooting Sheckles.
Pettway's attorneys recently asked for a new trial based on some of the recently released evidence that also mentions him.
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
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.
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