LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- The Commonwealth's Attorney's office says there was “more than sufficient evidence” for a jury to find Dejuan Hammond guilty of orchestrating the murder of Troya Sheckles and has asked a judge to deny his request for a new trial.
In December, Hammond's attorneys asked Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig to set aside Hammond's conviction or order a new trial, arguing the judge made several errors during the trial that should prompt an acquittal.
But Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys Elizabeth Jones Brown and Dorislee Gilbert on Friday filed a motion arguing the judge acted properly and the conviction should stand. A hearing on the motions will be held on Feb. 19, when Hammond is scheduled to be sentenced.
Hammond was convicted in December of murder and intimidating a witness. He is supposed to be sentenced to 35 years in prison for having Sheckles killed so she couldn't testify against his brother, Lloyd, in 2009.
The defense argued 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 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.
Prosecutors argue Bisig was correct in allowing the statements by Bolin and Kinnison to be played so they could ask both witnesses about their inconsistent testimony.
Hammond's attorneys also claim 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.
The Commonwealth's Attorney's office argued in its motion that the internal investigation is “of no relevance, as this court appropriately found.” And, they noted, Bisig already found that “there was no intentional wrongdoing” on the part of prosecutors.
Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine did not immediately return an e-mail asking about the current status of the Van De Rostyne investigation.
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.
But the prosecution argues that Coffey did not characterize Sheckles as being “terrified,” but instead testified that she was “trembling and having all the signs of someone who was scared.” Bisig admonished the jury to only consider what Coffey said he witnessed, not what Sheckles might have felt, according to the response.
And the defense never objected to Van De Rostyne's characterization that Sheckles was terrified, so Bisig was unable to consider whether that testimony was relevant, according to the motion.
“It is not improper for a witness who observed another individual's demeanor and reaction to a circumstance to describe the individual as scared,” the prosecution argues.
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.
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