Attorney for accused Kentucky school shooter says witnesses fear helping defense
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – The defense attorney for a 15-year-old student charged with murder in the Jan. 23, high school shooting in Benton, Ky., has asked a judge to allow expert witnesses to remain confidential during their initial work on a defense for the teen.
In a motion filed Monday, attorney Tom Griffith asked Circuit Court Judge James T. Jameson to hold a closed hearing to discuss the funding and hiring of expert witnesses and then sealing that information from the public and prosecutors in Gabe Parker's case.
Griffith wrote that the amount of publicity in the case along with the ongoing national gun debate and threats made by the prosecutor to Parker's parents have made it difficult for him to prepare a defense.
Griffith said several experts have refused to work on Parker’s case because of “the stigma of being associated with it.”
“Additionally the national gun debate stirs up high levels of emotion on both sides and that discourages many people from considering public participation in the case,” Griffith wrote.
Also, Griffith said Commonwealth’s Attorney Jacob Ford has threatened to pursue criminal charges against Parker’s parents if the defense puts on a mental health defense – possible wanton endangerment charges for allowing Parker access to the weapon.
“This sort of threat endangers the ability of the defense to get cooperation in that sort of defense from the client and his family for fear of further prosecution,” according to the motion, which Griffith will make in Marshall Circuit Court on Friday. “The only solution to this sort of threat is to prevent the prosecutor from being aware of the development of any mental health defense.”
The motion suggests the judge hold a hearing with notice to the public and press to determine if there is any objection to the information being sealed.
And Griffith said he would eventually provide the names of expert witnesses and amount of funding after determining whether they can help with Parker’s case.
The judge has already been found to have made legal errors involving secrecy in handling the case, including shutting the public out of Parker’s arraignment.
Parker has been indicted on two counts of murder and 14 counts of assault after he allegedly opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School shortly before 8 a.m. on January 23.
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