May 25, Source : http://www.courier-journal.com
Twenty-five years after the victim was raped and murdered, the Kentucky Supreme Court ordered a judge Thursday to hold a hearing on whether Gregory Wilson, who was convicted of the crimes, should be exempt from the death penalty because he is mentally retarded.
The court ruled 5-2 that a Kenton Circuit Court judge improperly rejected Wilson’s claim without a hearing.
The Supreme Court also ordered the judge, Gregory Bartlett, to rule on whether Wilson is entitled to DNA testing of semen found in the automobile of the victim, Deborah Pooley.
In a heated dissent, Justices Bill Cunningham and Wil Schroder, who sits in Covington, argued that the case has gone on long enough and that Wilson should have raised the issues long ago.
“Don’t forget after all these years that an innocent person named Deborah Pooley was ruthlessly murdered and her killer is still in the courts of this state,” Cunningham wrote.
Wilson was convicted in the 1987 murder, kidnapping, rape and robbery of Pooley. His conviction came after a raucous trial in which he represented himself at times while at other times was represented by two lawyers who volunteered to try the case for $2,500, after the trial judge begged for somebody to handle it.
One of the lawyers had never tried a felony case while the other listed a local pub as his office and was described later by his co-counsel as a “burned-out alcoholic.”
Wilson was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 16, 2010, but the execution was halted by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, who cited questions about Wilson’s mental status and new state regulations for carrying out executions.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Minton said that Wilson, who moved for a new trial in 2010, presented enough evidence that he was mentally retarded to justify a hearing.
Kentucky law bars the execution of an offender considered “seriously mentally retarded,” which is defined as having an IQ of 70 or below combined with “substantial deficits in adaptive behavior” exhibited as a child.
Wilson submitted school records showing that, at 14, he had an IQ of 62 and was “easily influenced by delinquent peers.”
But the same evaluation said he was only “mildly retarded” and that his adjustment to school “should be no problem.”
Cunningham also noted in the dissent that Wilson was able to write pleadings in his own case that were “articulate, organized and possessed of writing skills and vocabulary that many college students do not possess.”
The court rejected part of Wilson’s appeal, saying he wasn’t entitled to a jury determination of whether he is mentally retarded, and it also reiterated a previous holding that there is no constitutional right to DNA testing.
Wilson’s current lawyer, chief Jefferson County public defender Dan Goyette, said he was reviewing the opinion and did not have an immediate reaction.
Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, noted that Wilson, as Cunningham’s dissent points out, was found competent to stand trial and his lawyers have failed to produce that report. “We are hopeful that the upcoming hearing in Kenton Circuit Court will result in an order from the court to obtain the competency report,” she said.
Pooley was abducted and forced into her car at knife point, then taken to a secluded location on Covington’s floodwall, where her hands were tied and she was raped in the back seat.
Wilson’s girlfriend, Brenda Humphrey, who also was convicted of murder, testified that Wilson strangled Pooley, despite her pleas for her life, and that they later dumped her body in a remote thicket before using her stolen credit cards on a shopping spree.
The trial captured state and later national attention when no lawyers would defend Wilson because of the minimal fee that was provided in capital cases. Chief Circuit Judge Raymond Lape Jr. posted a plea on his courthouse door saying he was “desperate” for somebody to come forward.
One of the lawyers who finally volunteered, William Hagedorn of Newport, a semi-retired lawyer, volunteered to serve as lead counsel for free, though he had no office, no staff, no copy machine and no lawbooks.
It also turned out that on each day of the trial bailiffs took Humphrey to have sex with one of Lape’s colleagues on the bench. That judge and Hagedorn are now deceased.