Could Lexington case offer clues into Marshall County school shooting?

BENTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A Lexington case could offer clues into claims of witness tampering by the school system in the Marshall County High School shooting, according to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Sixteen year old Gabe Parker is accused of killing two fellow students and injuring several others in the shooting on January 23, 2018.

Parker is represented by attorney Tom Griffiths, of Danville.   In a motion filed by Griffiths, he implied that what is described as an “agent for the Marshall County school district,” identified as attorney Michael Owsley, of Benton, reportedly instructed employees of the district not to talk to defense investigators about the case, according to the newspaper report.

Prosecutor Dennis Foust denies there was any witness tampering.  He says attorney Michael Owsley wasn’t telling employees not to talk, but rather asking the defense to make no further attempts to make contact with witnesses since they had been through a difficult and trying experience and were still dealing with the aftermath.  Foust says that is a far cry from saying not to talk to anyone else involved in the case, according to the newspaper.

In his legal response, prosecutor Foust quoted a Kentucky Supreme Court case from 2012 – McGuire vs. Commonwealth – that dealt with another school-related shooting in Lexington.  That case involved a school employee who was accused and convicted of killing another employee.  In that case, the court addressed alleged interference with witnesses by the Fayette County Board of Education attorney, according to the report.

The court ruled the school district appeared to have erred and outlined what employers could not and could do in similar cases.  School systems can’t interfere with witnesses’ decisions about speaking with the defense or control access to witnesses outside of work time, according to the report.

Prosecutor Foust noted that while the presiding judge and the Kentucky Supreme Court both strongly admonished the Fayette County school system in the McGuire case, its alleged actions did not have a bearing on the final outcome, according to the newspaper.

The judge in the Marshall County school shooting case ruled the claims of alleged witness tampering should be investigated further.  An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for February 1, 2019.  A second motion was also scheduled to be heard that day involving the defense gaining access to the accused shooter’s counseling records, according to the report.

 

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