Kentucky school shooting judge at center of legal battles
By DYLAN LOVAN
Feb. 27, 2018
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky judge who has kept the public out of criminal proceedings for a 15-year-old charged in a deadly school shooting is responding to complaints that he acted inappropriately.
Marshall County Circuit Judge James Jameson closed Gabriel R. Parker's arraignment and other proceedings over the objections of some news outlets. Parker's case has been moved to adult court and he is facing murder charges in the killing of two students Jan. 23 at Marshall County High School.
A group of western Kentucky media outlets filed petitions with the Kentucky Court of Appeals over the secrecy, saying Jameson sealed public records and closed off his arraignment after Parker was indicted as an adult on murder charges. Jameson filed a petition this week rebutting those claims.
Mark Blankenship, the county's top prosecutor, has filed a motion asking for a special judge to be appointed to the case.
Blankenship said in an emailed statement Tuesday that he was contacted by victims' families and decided to ask for a special judge. He said some local news media have "flooded the airwaves" alleging judicial bias and misconduct.
"Hopefully, a ruling either way by our highest judge will give our victims assurance that everything is fine so we can proceed to the merits of the case," Blankenship said.
A group of news outlets owned by the Paxton Media Group have petitioned the Kentucky Court of Appeals, alleging that Jameson has acted inappropriately since Parker's arrest. An attorney for the group, Louisville lawyer Jon Fleishaker, said the group wants a transcript of the Feb. 16 arraignment and for the judge to "follow the law."
The filing from the media outlets alleges Jameson is "personally acquainted" with Parker's mother and appointed a public defender for Parker before the case was in the judge's jurisdiction. It also alleges the judge attempted to intervene as police were interviewing Parker after the shooting.
Jameson responded this week in a filing with the appeals court that on the morning of the shooting, Bethany Willcutt, an attorney for the Department of Public Advocacy, went to the judge's chambers and asked that a defense attorney be appointed for Parker.
Police informed the judge that morning that the interrogation was ended by Parker himself, when the teen requested an attorney, according to Jameson's filing. The judge said he knows Parker's mother only through her work as a local news reporter.
Jameson said Kentucky law calls for records related to a juvenile case to remain sealed until the defendant is "indicted and arraigned" in adult court. Jameson said the unknown outcome of a potential mental evaluation of Parker prompted him to err on the side of keeping the arraignment off-limits to the public.
Jameson said all criminal proceeding hearings going forward in the case would be open to the public.
Kent Westberry, a Louisville attorney who filed the responses on behalf of Judge Jameson, said the state appeals court could call for oral arguments in the case or issue a ruling based on the court filings.