RUSSELLVILLE – The trial of a Bowling Green man accused of shooting and killing a woman in her Logan County apartment will begin Monday after a judge denied a motion from the defense team to continue the matter.
Demetrius Roberson, 25, is charged with murder, attempted murder, first-degree robbery and nine counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. He is accused of firing the shot that killed Lexus Bell, 21, during a home invasion robbery Aug. 21, 2016, at her residence at Robinwood Apartments in Russellville.
Four co-defendants have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and are anticipated to testify against Roberson at the trial in Logan Circuit Court. Roberson faces a maximum sentence of life without parole if he is convicted.
On Wednesday, Logan Circuit Judge Tyler Gill denied a motion from Roberson’s defense team to continue the trial.
Filed shortly before Wednesday’s hearing, the motion from attorney Audrey Woosnam of the state Department of Public Advocacy contended that a review Tuesday of evidence held by Logan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Neil Kerr turned up some discrepancies between what the prosecution said it provided to the defense and what the defense said it had seen.
Woosnam’s motion said CDs provided to the defense purportedly containing recordings of police interviews with three people – including a co-defendant, and two phone conversations – turned out to be blank.
“We will not have an adequate opportunity to incorporate whatever is (in the CDs) ... into our presentation at trial,” Woosnam said Wednesday.
Roberson’s attorneys previously raised concerns about having an incomplete file of evidence from the prosecution. Russellville Police Department Detective Kenneth Edmonds, the lead investigator, said he provided everything in his case file to the prosecution.
The motion also contended that Kerr’s predecessor in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, Justin Crocker, denied a request from Roberson’s defense team to personally view evidence in Crocker’s possession relating to the case.
Gill pressed Woosnam and attorney Michael Bufkin, who also represents Roberson, on this claim, asking them to specify when and where Crocker refused the request.
Bufkin said it was at some point last year while conferencing with Crocker in the courtroom.
Gill said that denial would have been an “inexplicable” reversal of the prosecution’s open discovery policy and asked what Bufkin did about it, to which Bufkin said “nothing.”
“Wouldn’t that (refusal) strike you as odd?” Gill asked Bufkin. “Wouldn’t you bring that to the court’s attention?”
During the hearing, Gill called Crocker, now an assistant prosecutor in another judicial circuit after losing to Kerr in last year’s election, to ask about the incident.
Crocker said he did not remember denying Roberson’s defense team access to his files, adding that he felt he and Bufkin worked well with each other.
Gill asked Roberson’s attorneys for further clarification on their contention that they were not given access to all the prosecution’s evidence and, if so, why they did nothing in response.
“We believed that if we filed a motion to inspect the file, you would not address it because it would not be your place to do so,” Woosnam said.
“The reason you didn’t file a motion is the judge’s fault, did I hear that right?” Gill said in response.
The judge asked Roberson’s attorneys when they received the CDs that turned out to be blank, and Bufkin said they began getting copies of CDs last year.
Gill followed up by asking when they first noticed the blank CDs, and Woosnam said during a review of the evidence within the past few weeks.
Kerr said he had worked with the defense attorneys to make sure that they had access to the same evidence as his office, and sought to avoid any evidentiary issues that could potentially cause a conviction to be overturned on appeal.
“My only concern is I want to try this case once,” Kerr said. “I don’t want Lexus’ parents to go through with this more than once. ... I’ve done everything I can to put everything out there.”
Saying that the case was important to Roberson and Bell’s family, Gill denied the motion to continue the trial.
“If I were to believe the defense attorneys, they are confessing to absolute incompetence,” Gill said in court, addressing the defense team. “They are provided with a CD last year and don’t find out until a few weeks before the trial that there’s nothing on it. ... You’ve got four days, and I expect you to be prepared.”
The judge had some pointed remarks for Bufkin.
“You’re licensed to practice in the state of Kentucky, and I think your license is on the line because you’ve put on the record what you’ve done and what you haven’t done,” Gill said. “I owe it to the people of Kentucky that this case gets resolved one way or the other.”
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.