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When a U.S. Supreme Court ruling was announced in late May, it opened the door for a possible defense in a local murder case.
Defense attorneys for Abdullah White, who is charged with murder in the death of Kristie L. Allen, 28, were granted a continuance Monday in LaRue Circuit Court. With the trial now set for Oct. 27, the defense has time to research whether the Supreme Court ruling in Hall v. Florida is relevant.
“It’s changed the way Kentucky will have to look at the way they treat intellectually disabled cases,” said White’s counsel, Julia Mudd from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, after the hearing. “It puts more obligations on us to look at more than an IQ score. It’s not to make any comment that he’s guilty or not guilty. Any good attorney needs to prepare for the penalty phase.”
In Hall v. Florida, Freddie Hall, with an IQ of 71, was sentenced to death before the Supreme Court ruled individuals with an intellectual disability cannot be executed because it would violate the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause.
Hall’s IQ test was the determining factor on whether he has an intellectual disability. Florida’s law, like Kentucky’s, deems 70 or less as intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court ruled an arbitrary cutoff score was a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Mudd said Kentucky’s law “mirrors” the Florida law, and could be applied in White’s case. The ruling also would “allow defendants in Kentucky to offer additional evidence in support of a claim of intellectual disability and require courts to consider such evidence,” her motion said.
“We have gotten some records on Mr. White,” Mudd said during the hearing. “We have an obligation to look into everything that could possibly indicate that under this new case law that Mr. White is intellectually disabled. We, at this time, aren’t saying that he is, but we are saying that further investigation is needed to determine that.”
Judge Jack Seay told the attorneys he was familiar with the case, and the Supreme Court case has “significantly changed that aspect” of White’s case.
The court now has to “consider the totality” of the evidence of whether a person is intellectually disabled, he said.
Mudd said she needed more time because it was “very difficult to get records” because of the “inability” of some state agencies to produce records “that should be in their possession.”
In its investigation, the defense is finding some records may have been destroyed and some agencies no longer exist, Mudd said.
Mudd told the court that counsel still has an obligation to pursue all avenues of defense, especially because of the nature and possible consequence of the charges, and needs more time to explore the option.
“Death is a possibility,” she said. “I believe we have an obligation to do everything we can if there is even a possibility that Mr. White isn’t even eligible for the death penalty. I think that we have a duty to ensure that it’s put before the court in an appropriate way with appropriate records and a thorough presentation is made in order to ensure that the law is followed.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Whitney Meredith objected to the continuance, saying the victim’s family has waited long enough for closure.
It has been more than two years since Allen was found dead inside a burglarized Buffalo residence where she was house-sitting for friends.
“The family is ready to put this crime to rest and move on with some sort of a resolution,” Meredith said in her objection. “Since the mediation attempt failed, they are prepared to go through a jury trial, which will be long and exhaustive, but they know that might be what it takes to come to a resolution for their daughter’s death.”
She also said the defense failed to produce enough evidence as to White’s mental ability. Meredith said test scores and grades “significantly lower than his peers” does not constitute sufficient evidence and that had the defense wanted to present this defense, they should have been able to ascertain White’s mental ability through their conversations with him.
“We don’t feel like that’s enough to insinuate that they need to continue their investigation into whether he is mentally disabled,” she said.
Before Seay granted the continuance, he expressed some concern about taking away from White’s right to a speedy trial. He also said he wished there were more concrete facts to consider and the continuance will not affect White’s bond, which is set at $50,000 cash.
The trial has been continued three times. Two continuances have been granted to this defense team and one was granted to White’s previous counsel.
A LaRue County grand jury indicted White, 37, for Allen’s murder, two counts of tampering with physical evidence, first- and second-degree burglary, receiving stolen property, theft by unlawful taking-automobile more than $10,000 and first-degree persistent felony offender.
Allen’s official cause of death was asphyxia. An arrest warrant says Allen’s mother, Beverly Allen, went to the Buffalo residence to check on her daughter when she saw White leave the house and get into Allen’s Toyota Camry.
Samantha J. Kolley, 21, of Elizabethtown, is accused of driving a car from the murder scene. She was indicted on charges of second-degree burglary and complicity, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and complicity, receiving stolen property and complicity, and first-degree hindering prosecution or apprehension.
According to indictments, the two “prepared the body of Kristie L. Allen to be moved after her death with intent to impair its verity or availability in the official proceeding.” The indictments also says the two attempted to hide Allen’s vehicle, which police recovered in Taylor County.
Kolley’s indictment also accuses her of aiding White — who spent several days on the run before being arrested Jan. 4 in Louisville — in his efforts to elude law enforcement.
White, who has been lodged in LaRue County Detention Center since his arrest in January 2012, previously was convicted of murder in 1996 after he and several other teens were interrupted during a burglary attempt. According to a citation, White shot the man who caught them in the act with a stolen shotgun and later admitted to the shooting.
He served a 20-year sentence and was released in 2008, according to the Department of Corrections.
Kolley is out on a $25,000 unsecured bond. She is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. July 18 for a pretrial conference in LaRue Circuit