From WRIL - The Big One -
During an afternoon hearing in Bell Circuit court today the attorney for Erica Lawson, the woman charged with the murder of her own child, Baby Elena spoke on her behalf as she watched via zoom from Bourbon County Jail on mute.
At issue was a motion that her attorneys, Gregory Coulson and Asst. Public Advocate Emily Croucher, filed stating that the merits of the case require that Judge Keith Nagle to make a consideration to “dismiss or strike death as an available penalty”. This would be the first hearing on this case since Mr. Nagle became Circuit Judge.
While the first motion was addressed later in the proceedings, Greg Coulson stated that there was a motion filed to compel the commonwealth to allow the lab testing of DNA evidence to be preserved for the defense to have independent testing conducted. There was an additional motion made to conduct an independent review of the evidence against Lawson without prosecutor Lisa Fugate, her staff, or Middlesboro investigators looking over their shoulder.
Commonwealth Attorney Lisa Fugate stated that this move would raise “serious red flags” regarding chain of custody, but that legal protocol for a defendant to see the evidence against them for good cause is not a problem. What Fugate said was a problem is doing so without some type of guidance to protect the integrity of the evidence.
Judge Nagle shortly afterward agreed that the defense has a right to examine the evidence without the Commonwealth or its agents present, but denied the section of the motion that is be done without supervision. He stated that there must be an “evidence custodian” present.
Also at issue with the defense council was what they felt was a lack of response by the Commonwealth required to provide the defendant with a Bill of Particulars concerning the alleged offense. This typically includes the date of the offense, place of the offense, circumstances observed constituting the offense, and the time of the offense. Ms. Fugate stated that her office did file a response at the end of 2023 and a hearing was held under interim Circuit Judge Tom Jones. However, Judge Nagle said the Commonwealth has until February 17th for filing the memorandum on the Bill of Particulars. In turn, the defense has until March 8th to file their response.
As far as the “dismiss or strike death as a penalty” motion, it was continued as Ms. Fugate required more time than the few days since the defense’s filing on January 25th. Judge Nagle granted both sides twenty days each to respond to the motion itself and stated that “there is nothing for the court to decide right now as far as discovery”.
As the hearing was ending, Attorney Coulson stated that there would be future filings about capital eligibility for the death penalty under a new statute regarding Erica Lawson.
The next pretrial hearing for Erica Lawson and the subsequent motions to be decided will be Wednesday March 20, 2024, at 9:00am.