Defense attorneys for Dejuan Hammond ask judge for new murder tr - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Defense attorneys for Dejuan Hammond ask judge for new murder trial because of errors

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- Less than a week after Dejuan Hammond was found guilty of orchestrating the murder of Troya Sheckles, his defense attorneys have asked a judge to set aside the conviction or order a new trial.

The motion, filed Wednesday by defense attorneys Ted Shouse and Annie O'Connell, claims Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig made several errors during the two-week trial that should prompt an acquittal.

Shouse and O'Connell will argue the motion in front of Bisig on Jan. 21, the day Hammond is scheduled to be sentenced to 35 years in prison for having Sheckles killed so she couldn't testify against his brother, Lloyd, in 2009. Dejuan Hammond was convicted of murder and intimidating a witness.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown said in an interview Wednesday that prosecutors will be filing a written response. She declined to elaborate. Shouse declined to to comment on the motion.

The defense argues in its motion that Bisig erred in allowing prosecutors to play for jurors the full statements made to police by Princess Bolin, Dejuan Hammond's former girlfriend.

Bolin told police that Hammond sent her into Shelby Park on March 23, 2009, to look for a woman and report back to him shortly before Sheckles was killed. She also told police she overheard Hammond talking about the murder and sent her into the park after the shooting to see who was killed.

During the trial, however, Bolin gave Hammond an alibi and repeatedly said she couldn't recall her previous statements to police. She told prosecutors Hammond was with her at the mall shopping for shoes on the day Sheckles was murdered.

The defense also alleges that Bisig should not have allowed the prosecution to play witness Ike Kinnison's statement to police. Kinnison told police that he heard Dejuan Hammond and his brother, Lloyd, discussing the possibility of Sheckles testifying against Lloyd. Kinnison told police Dejuan said, "I'll take care of it."

Kinnison also described to police the actions of Dejuan Hammond and his co-defendant in the murder, Steven Pettway, both before and after the murder, implicating them both. But he denied all of this during his testimony during the trial.

And, according to the motion, Bisig erred by limiting how much the defense could tell jurors about an internal investigation by the commonwealth's attorney's office into the handling of the Hammond case by former prosecutor Tom Van De Rostyne.

The defense during the trial centered on the “overzealous pursuit” of Hammond by prosecutors and police, and the fact that there is an ongoing internal investigation “should have been explored more thoroughly before the jury,” according to the motion.

Judge Bisig allowed the defense to mention the investigation only briefly when Van De Rostyne was on the stand. He acknowledged that he had been interviewed by a prosecutor leading the investigation.

Bisig wrongly ruled that allowing the defense to get into more details of the investigation might “deter the commonwealth attorney from pursuing other reforms within that office,” the defense argues in the motion.

The investigation, at least in part, stems from the fact that Bolin's initial statement to police in 2009, saying that she was at the mall with Hammond when Sheckles was murdered, wasn't turned over by prosecutors until earlier this year. That led to a mistrial in April.  

During this trial, Shouse accused Van De Rostyne of intentionally not turning over the statement "because it was bad for the commonwealth."

Van De Rostyne testified he made a mistake in not turning over the summary but that it was not intentional.

Also, the defense claims Bisig erroneously allowed Van De Rostyne and former prosecutor Tom Coffey to describe Sheckles as being “terrified” when she was brought to court and ordered to testify against Lloyd Hammond, while Hammond's family was sitting nearby.

Sheckles was gunned down in Shelby Park while sitting with a friend in March 2009, weeks after agreeing to testify.

Last year, Steven Pettway was sentenced to 55 years for killing Sheckles. That conviction has been appealed.

This was the fourth murder trial for Hammond. The case was a major victory for the Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, which has received criticism for its handling of the murder, including repeatedly not turning over evidence, which resulted in mistrials and delays.

But Shouse said after the sentencing recommendation that  the defense was "surprised that a Jefferson County jury would validate this kind of behavior from police and the commonwealth's attorneys office. This is exactly how innocent people get sent to prison and that's what we think has happened here."

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