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Courier-Journal: ‘Kentucky death-row inmate’s trial littered with problems’

In “Kentucky death-row inmate’s trial littered with problems,” the state’s largest newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, joined the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer in pointing out how broken Kentucky’s death penalty system is regarding the scheduled execution on Sept. 16 of Gregory Wilson.

Some highlights from the Andy Wolfson’s article:

Incompetent attorneys represented Wilson in his trial

  • Wilson’s court-appointed attorney William “Hagedorn practiced out of his home, where he displayed a flashing ‘Budweiser’ sign. His business card gave the phone number of ‘Kelly’s Keg,’ a local bar. And as [Wilson’s other attorney, John] Foote would later say in an affidavit, Hagedorn ‘manifested all the signs of a burned-out alcoholic.’”
  • “Hagedorn ‘was a troubled lawyer with drinking problems, bar association disciplinary problems and legal problems of the criminal variety,’ investigated on allegations of hiding stolen property under his office floor.”
  • “According to briefs later filed on Wilson’s behalf, Hagedorn visited his client once in jail before trial. He failed to investigate evidence collected by police, including a knife-like letter opener owned by Humphrey, to see if it was stained with blood. Hagedorn also failed to interview a jailhouse informant who claimed Wilson had confessed. And he neglected to interview or subpoena Humphrey’s sister, who had told police that Brenda Humphrey [Wilson’s co-defendent] had admitted cutting the victim’s throat.”
  • “Hagedorn failed to prepare early for the penalty phase of the trial, so that family members who later said they would have testified on behalf of sparing Wilson’s life were never contacted.”
  • “Lape, the trial judge, ordered the lawyers to assist Wilson during the trial, but they came and went, according to witnesses, one of whom estimated that Hagedorn was present less than half the time.”
  • “Hagedorn was missing from the courtroom during the direct examination of the forensic pathologist, and later had to ask the judge to summarize that witness’s testimony before his cross-examination.”
  • “In a brief, one of Wilson’s previous lawyers likened the appointment of Hagedorn, who died in 1991, to ‘drafting a chiropractor to do brain surgery.'”

Wilson’s co-defendant was having sex with a judge on the same court

  • “Wilson’s co-defendant, Brenda Humphrey, who testified against him, was taken each day of the trial to the chambers of [the judge presiding over Wilson’s case, Chief Kenton Circuit Judge Raymond] Lape’s colleague, Circuit Judge James Gilliece, where they had sex.
  • “She was convicted of kidnapping and facilitation to rape and murder and is serving a sentence of life without parole for 25 years. Now Wilson, after 22 years on death row, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Sept. 16 at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville.”
  • “If Wilson had known of the relationship at the time of the trial, Goyette said, he could have used it to undermine Humphrey’s credibility when she testified against him.”

‘Travesty of justice’ has embarrassed the state the state and Gov. Beshear

  • “Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, who has written about the case, said in an e-mail that it is a ‘travesty of justice’ and among the worst examples he’s ever seen of a defendant tried for his life with unqualified counsel.”
  • “Wilson’s best hope may be that [Kentucky Gov. Steve] Beshear will decide that the execution is unacceptable given the embarrassment the case already has caused.”

Wilson, a changed man and model inmate

  • “After 22 years in prison, Gregory Wilson is a changed man, according to Goyette and others who have visited him, including a minister who says Wilson converted to Catholicism and is a devout believer. One of his three regular visitors is a nun from Louisville.’He talked about his past like the person he used to be is a foreign entity,’ said the Rev. Gerald Otahal of Owensboro. ‘He is very repentant and a sweet spirit. If there was ever the genuine article, he is it.'”
  • “Wilson has reached out to younger relatives to steer them away from the life of crime he chose, and that he has been a model prisoner. Corrections Department records confirm he has had no serious violations.”

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