Death penalty trial delayed after public defender's office accused of concealing bullet casings for six years
“How is this not tampering with physical evidence?” Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz Gibson asked twice in court on Wednesday after learning about the issue. “I have a tremendous concern about that. … You can’t make this stuff up.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – Nearly six years after 15-year-old Gregory Holt was shot to death in his mother’s apartment, the man charged with his murder, James Mallory, was supposed to finally stand trial Friday.
But the death penalty case was delayed Thursday for a reason the judge said “appalled” her and raised questions about whether a crime may have been committed by the defense team for one of the men allegedly involved in the slaying.
Just this week, the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office found out an investigator and attorneys for a co-defendant, and key witness against Mallory, have for six years been in possession of bullet casings possibly linked to the shooting -- without disclosing them.
“How is this not tampering with physical evidence?” Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz Gibson asked twice in court on Wednesday after learning about the issue. Tampering with evidence is a felony. “I have a tremendous concern about that. … You can’t make this stuff up.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dorislee Gilbert said prosecutors were talking on Tuesday with Anthony Hogan, who was also charged in the murder of Holt but agreed to testify against Mallory as part of a plea deal, about his upcoming testimony when they learned his attorney had the shell casings.
Attorney Angela Elleman of the Louisville Public Defender’s office and an investigator working with her dug up the shell casings buried in a tree stump outside a bar in Louisville just months after the April 11, 2012, murder, according to evidence discussed in a court hearing on Wednesday. Elleman said she could not immediately comment when reached by phone Friday.
The casings have been in a safe at the public defender’s office since being collected, Gilbert said in the hearing. Dan Goyette, head of the public defender’s office, said late Friday "after a careful review of the rather complex legal and evidentiary situation that arose in this case, it’s clear that the actions of Mr. Hogan’s attorneys were directed in the best interests of their client and were consistent with their professional obligations."
Gibson said in court Wednesday that she needed to “figure out” why the evidence was never turned over and “what further action needs to be taken.”
Hogan allegedly claims he saw Mallory bury the shell casings after Holt was shot to death in his mother’s apartment near Dixie Highway and East Rockford Lane. The defense team dug them up in June 2012, after Hogan had been arrested.
Holt was a student at Farnsley Middle School. Prosecutors have said Holt’s mother, Kendra Wilson, participated in a robbery and attempted execution of Mallory hours earlier, and that Mallory shot the teen while trying to retaliate against Wilson.
While the Mallory murder case has dragged on for years – with the trial postponed numerous times for various reasons – this is the first time prosecutors or Mallory’s defense team learned about the shell casings.
Gilbert said Louisville Metro Police immediately retrieved the shell casings and they are being tested to see if they match the gun recovered from the shooting.
Hogan was pulled over in April 2012 in possession of the gun, but he has accused Mallory of firing the shots that killed the teen. He told police the men drove to the apartment, Mallory kicked in the door, planning to attack Wilson, and fired shots into the darkened home, killing the teen.
Mallory's attorneys, Darren Wolff and Mark Hall, asked for a delay in the trial while the casings are tested, saying the results could help or hurt Mallory's case.
During a second hearing Thursday, Mallory stood up, arguing against the delay and claiming Hogan was the killer.
Gibson delayed the trial until September.
As for whether prosecutors will seek charges against the defense attorneys or ask for any sanctions, Gilbert said, “I don’t know what the plan is yet.”
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