LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Convicted murderer Dejuan Hammond is asking a judge to throw out a 2014 jury verdict and decades-long prison sentence, alleging that investigators failed to turn over evidence that refutes a key witness’ testimony.
Hammond was found guilty of hiring a man to kill Troya Sheckles in 2009 to prevent her from testifying against his younger brother, Lloyd, who was charged with killing Sheckles' boyfriend and two other men. He is serving a 25-year prison sentence for murder.
The Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office obtained the conviction despite heavy criticism that included repeatedly not turning over evidence, causing mistrials and delays.
A key moment in the trial was when Princess Bolin, Dejuan Hammond's former girlfriend, told a Louisville Metro Police detective that Hammond sent her into Shelby Park on March 23, 2009, to look for a “dark skinned, short haired woman” and report back to him shortly before Sheckles was killed.
But attorneys Mark Wettle and Rob Eggert, who now represent Hammond, told Judge Angela Bisig on Monday that Bolin was fed the description by investigators during her interrogation and, in fact, she already knew what Sheckles looked like.
What’s more, prosecutors failed to show jurors a video in a separate case that could prove Bolin knew who Sheckles was, the lawyers claim.
When Sheckles initially didn't show up to testify against Lloyd Hammond, his case was dismissed. After Sheckles was found and brought into court, swearing to reappear, Hammond was re-indicted.
A video of that Feb. 9, 2009, hearing showed Dejuan Hammond was in the courtroom at the time, which was pointed out during his trial.
However, Wettle and Eggert now claim Bolin was also in the courtroom at the time, but prosecutors didn’t play the part of video showing that during the trial. Instead, prosecutors called a witness who testified Hammond was in the courtroom. There was no mention of Bolin’s presence.
"It is difficult to conceive why the prosecution would omit from the jury's viewing ... the portion of the video tape clearly showing Dejuan Hammond sitting in the back row of the courtroom, other than for the fact it also clearly shows Princess Bolin sitting next to him," Eggert and Wettle wrote in a motion.
Attorney Ted Shouse, who represented Hammond during his trial, testified Monday that if he had had seen the video showing Bolin in the courtroom, he could have changed his questioning and defense strategy.
“If you knew the person, why would you say ‘go find a dark-skinned, short haired woman’,” Shouse testified. “Why wouldn’t you use the name?”
During the trial, Shouse argued that LMPD Det. Roy Stalvey focused on Hammond from the beginning, ignoring other potential leads and suspects. He said witnesses were bullied and coerced by Stalvey and former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Van De Rostyne, who threatened them into saying what the prosecution needed to prove its case.
Bolin testified Monday that she had been in the courtroom during the Lloyd Hammond hearing and would have no problem recognizing Sheckles again. She denied that Dejuan Hammond told her to go to the park and look for a “dark skinned, short haired” woman.
Asked why she told Stalvey that, Bolin testified “he told me I needed to be either a witness or defendant, so I lied.”
She said Stalvey didn’t know she had seen Sheckles before and he came up with the description of Sheckles and fed it to her.
And Bolin testified that defense attorneys never asked her if she could identify Sheckles by sight.
The new motion filed by Hammond’s defense attorneys argues Shouse and his team failed to properly investigate the case and question witnesses and the conviction should be overturned for “ineffective assistance of counsel.”
Hammond also testified during the hearing this week, saying he told his defense attorneys at the time that Bolin was with him when Sheckles was sworn to reappear and testify against his brother. He said Bolin's statements to police that she had never seen Sheckles were clearly false.
“When I reviewed her (Bolin’s) statements and the things she was coerced into saying, I told Ted this is how we can bring out that her statement is a lie,” he said.
Shouse declined to comment for this article.
Under cross-examination by Assistant Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Dorislee Gilbert, Shouse acknowledged his defense team could have found the full court video showing Bolin, as it is public record.
Shouse also testified, however, that prosecutors have a duty to turn over exculpatory evidence, or evidence that might help the defense – including the video showing Bolin seeing Sheckles.
Both the defense and prosecution are planning to file additional legal briefs in the next few months and Bisig is expected to rule in late May.
Sheckles was gunned down in Shelby Park while sitting with a friend in March 2009, weeks after agreeing to testify.
Steven Pettway, whom prosecutors said Dejuan Hammond hired, was sentenced to 55 years for killing Sheckles.
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