Hammond case postponed because prosecutors want to use past stat - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hammond case postponed because prosecutors want to use past statements of reluctant witness

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- The Dejuan Hammond murder case was delayed for a third time on Thursday because prosecutors are trying to persuade a judge to allow them to use the past statements of a witness who now refuses to testify.

Earlier this week, witness Ike Kinnison refused to testify against Hammond as his third trial for the 2009 murder of Troya Sheckles began.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig denied a motion to allow prosecutors to use Kinnison's past statements to police during the trial, according to court records and an interview with Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown.

The Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has asked Bisig to reconsider her ruling and allow prosecutors to "impeach" Kinnison on the stand with his past statements to police, according to an Aug. 28 motion. There is no previous ruling from Bisig in the file.

A concurrent petition to the state court of appeals says prosecutors want to introduce testimony from another witness, Charles Jones, about an offer from Hammond to pay Kinnison $90,000 “in exchange for not testifying after the witness announced his refusal to testify.” Bisig had refused to consider Jones' evidence earlier because of a procedural issue. The appeals court had agreed to postpone the case until it could decide the issue.

Kinnison's statement and/or testimony contain “critical evidence,” prosecutors write in the motion, including that he saw Hammond and the co-defendant rush into a house near the scene of the murder, and that the “co-defendant handed the gun to Hammond and said that he had ‘shot the bitch'… because she was a witness against Hammond's brother.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys would not comment as to why Judge Bisig agreed to a motion by the defense to continue the case if the appeals court had already ordered the trial be postponed.

On Thursday, Hammond's trial was delayed because of an "issue" with a witness.

At the time, nobody - not prosecutors, defense attorneys nor the judge - would talk about what the issue was or why the case was again being delayed.

The prosecution and defense, long at odds in this case, even agreed on a statement to give to the press before leaving court.

"We needed a continuance to prepare for a future proceeding," is all both sides would say.

Judge Angela McCormick Bisig sealed three hearings the prosecution and defense had in her chambers over the last two days about the issue. She wouldn't comment further.

On Friday, the motion filed by the prosecution asking Judge Bisig to reconsider her motion allowing Kinnison's past statements was made available in the court file. Jones Brown acknowledged the delay was regarding whether Kinnison's statements would be allowed.

She would not say why prosecutors nor the defense would comment on Thursday.

Defense attorney Ted Shouse, who asked Bisig for the continuance after both sides had talked at length in the judge's chambers, would not comment on Friday.

Kinnison told police in 2011 that Steven Pettway came into a home after Sheckles was shot and said he had killed a woman, shooting until his gun was empty. Hammond is accused of hiring Pettway to kill Sheckles so she couldn't testify against his brother, Lloyd Hammond.

When he testified during Pettway's murder trial, Kinnison said he didn't remember making that statement and that he had been put "under a lot of pressure" by police.

But in a video played for jurors, Kinnison told police both Pettway and Dejuan Hammond admitted to him they were involved in the slaying of Sheckles.

Earlier this week, Kinnison and his attorney told Bisig he would not testify in the Hammond case. Bisig said he would likely be held in contempt.

Allowing him to refuse to testify without using his past statements against him would allow him to "legally obstruct justice," Jones Brown wrote in her motion.

This is "particularly unacceptable in this case," Jones Brown wrote, where a witness was allegedly killed to stop her from testifying.

This was Hammond's third trial for his alleged involvement in the murder of Sheckles, who was shot to death in Shelby Park in 2009.

The first trial ended last year when prosecutors couldn't find key witnesses. The second trial ended in a mistrial in April when prosecutors found a summary of an interview with a key witness that had never been turned over to the defense. Princess Bolin, Hammond's former girlfriend, gave him an alibi for the murder in the interview. She has since changed her story and is a key witness against Hammond.

Defense attorneys have asked Bisig to dismiss the case three times for prosecutorial misconduct, claiming prosecutors have repeatedly withheld evidence. Bisig has agreed with the defense in two of those motions that evidence was improperly withheld, but has allowed the case to go forward. She allowed the defense to tell jurors that evidence was withheld.

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