Prosecutors will not be forced to identify informant in taxi driver's death

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 15, 2013 

Prosecutors will not be compelled to identify a confidential informant before the trial of a man accused in the 2011 fatal shooting of a taxi driver, a judge ruled Tuesday.

In a related matter, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine overruled a motion to sever the murder charge from other felony charges against John Davis Cherry Jr.

Cherry, 31, is charged with murder in the death of Amine Lemghaili, who was found March 20, 2011, with a gunshot wound to the head inside his taxi in the Woodhill neighborhood. Cherry's four-day trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 28. If found guilty, Cherry could face life in prison.

Public defender Erica Roland had filed a motion seeking to compel prosecutors to identify a confidential informant. "We have a right to that name," especially if the person is a witness to the shooting, Roland said.

But the female informant is not a witness, and she gave police Cherry's name based only on what "she heard on the street," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Traci Caneer said. The witness would not be called to testify because hearsay is inadmissible at trial.

Furthermore, "no one was an eyewitness" to the shooting, Caneer said. And phone records would have led police to Cherry anyway, even without the name from the witness, she said.

Given that context, Goodwine overruled the motion to compel.

Roland also sought to sever the murder count so Cherry would be tried separately on other charges, including wanton endangerment, unlawful imprisonment, receiving stolen property and carrying a concealed deadly weapon.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Andrea Williams argued that the lesser charges are all part of a "continuing course of conduct" that should not be severed from the murder charge.

Roland said the inclusion of the charges in addition to murder "is just bootstrapping to make Mr. Cherry look more guilty."

Goodwine ruled in favor of the prosecution and agreed that Cherry should be tried for all the charges in the same trial. To say that prosecutors are "bootstrapping is a little bit disingenuous," Goodwine said.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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