Nunn's computer hard drive, child porn to be focus of July hearing

Hearing set on request to search external hard drive given to friend

jhewlett@herald-leader.comJune 11, 2010 

Nunn

Former state Rep. Steve Nunn is accused of killing his ex-fiancée.

CHARLES BERTRAM

An external hard drive belonging to murder defendant Steve Nunn will be the subject of a hearing July 8 in Fayette Circuit Court.

Police, while investigating the Sept. 11 shooting death of 29-year-old Amanda Ross of Lexington, had begun a forensic examination of the external hard drive but stopped when they came across an image of what appeared to them to be child pornography, according to documents that were unsealed Wednesday in Fayette Circuit Court.

The external hard drive was found in a box that Nunn had asked his friend Johnny Hutchison of Barren County to hide for him the night before the killing, according to court records. In addition to the external hard drive, police found nude photographs of Ross and other women, along with comments about them, in the box, according to an affidavit by Lexington police detective Todd Iddings.

On the morning of the fatal shooting, Hutchison called the Barren County sheriff about the box on the advice of his attorney, Bobby Richardson, according to court records. Several hours later, Sheriff Chris Eaton picked up the box, as well as a vase or jar, that Nunn had given Hutchison for safekeeping, according to court records.

A commonwealth's attorney's office's motion for a court order to search the external hard drive and the defense's response to that motion, both of which were filed in April, had been sealed until this week.

Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine unsealed those documents this week when she set the July 8 hearing date for the motion.

The commonwealth's attorney's office maintains that no search warrant was needed for the police search of the hard drive because Nunn had voluntarily relinquished control of the box and its contents to Hutchison, who, in turn, had voluntarily relinquished control of the items to Eaton. Prosecutors said they were asking for the court order "in an abundance of caution" because evidence of child pornography that might not be related to the Ross killing had been found on the hard drive.

"The motion speaks for itself, and beyond that, it really would be inappropriate to make any additional comments," Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said Thursday.

Attorneys for Nunn, a former state representative who is accused of killing Ross, his former fiancée, have argued in their response to the prosecution's request that police had no legal right to begin the forensic investigation of the hard drive. They also said that Lexington police and Eaton — who opened the taped-shut box before giving it to Lexington police — had no right to search the box. The defense attorneys maintain that Nunn had an expectation of privacy when it came to the box and its contents, and that Hutchison, who has described himself as Nunn's best friend, had no authority to consent to a police search of the items.

The defense attorneys, who said Nunn's constitutional rights have been violated, are asking the court to deny the prosecution's request for a court order. They also have asked the court not to allow items that were in the box to be introduced as evidence in the case.

Bette Niemi, one of Nunn's attorneys, declined to comment Thursday.

Ross was shot early in the morning of Sept. 11 outside her Opera House Square townhouse. Nunn, 57, was found later that morning near the graves of his parents, former Kentucky Gov. Louie Nunn and Beula Nunn, in a Hart County cemetery near the Barren County line.

Steve Nunn was holding a .38-caliber revolver and a hunting knife and appeared to have cut himself on the wrist, according to court records. Nunn fired the gun once into the air as six police officers approached him, according to authorities. Nunn is facing six counts of wanton endangerment in Hart County stemming from that incident.

Nunn is being held in the Fayette County jail. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

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