AG Coleman appeals dismissal of wanton murder indictment in Fayette Co.

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Attorney General Russell Coleman announced on Tuesday that his office has appealed a Fayette Circuit Court judge’s dismissal of a wanton murder indictment stemming from a 2021 case.

In collaboration with Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Kimberly Baird, Coleman’s office is arguing that the Circuit Court exceeded its authority by preventing the case from going before a jury.

In March 2021, a Fayette County Grand Jury indicted Cornell Thomas II, 38, of Lexington, on one count of wanton murder and one count of leaving the scene of an accident. According to court filings, Thomas is alleged to have been speeding at more than 90 miles per hour when he maneuvered around stopped traffic to run a red light and T-boned Tammy Botkin. Thomas, it is further alleged, did not apply the brakes and Botkin was killed in the violent collision. Thomas is alleged to have then attempted to flee the scene on foot before being apprehended by law enforcement.

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Following a pretrial hearing and the testimony of an expert witness, the Fayette Circuit Court dismissed the indictment, citing a lack of evidence and finding that the defendant was unfairly prosecuted. The Attorney General’s appeal asks the Court of Appeals to reverse the dismissal and reinstate the indictment.

“In our legal system, everyone has a particular role and a weighty responsibility,” Coleman stated. “Based on the facts and the evidence, Commonwealth’s Attorney Kimberly Baird and her team are prosecuting this case fully and fairly. Now, it’s the jury’s role – and the jury’s alone – to decide guilt. We’re asking the Court of Appeals to fix this error, allow this case to go before a jury and deliver justice for everyone involved.”

The Attorney General’s brief argues that the Fayette Circuit Court’s claim of selective prosecution by the Commonwealth’s Attorney falls far short of the standards set by both the U.S. Supreme Court and Kentucky criminal procedure.

“I am disappointed by the Court’s ruling and the reasons she gave for dismissing the indictment,” Baird said. “Our prosecutors work hard to follow the law, upholding the rights of defendants and victims. We appreciate the Attorney General for appealing the Court’s decision.”