Fayette judge rules Steve Nunn may review former attorney's case files

jkegley@herald-leader.comApril 25, 2013 

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Steve Nunn, seen here at a hearing in Fayette Circuit Court on Aug. 19, 2010.

PABLO ALCALA

A Fayette Circuit Court judge ruled that former state lawmaker Steve Nunn mayreview his former attorney's case files despite concerns about "protected" photographs of his murder victim, Amanda Ross.

Judge Pamela Goodwine said in an order filed Tuesday that she could find no reason to stop Nunn, a former state lawmaker, from examining six sealed boxes of evidence. Warren Scoville, Nunn's former defense attorney, gave the boxes to the court in February.

The "voluminous" evidence in the boxes apparently includes unspecified photos of Ross and other women, a letter from Nunn to Ross's mother, family photos of Ross and autopsy photos of Ross, according to court documents. Those items are under a court order preventing their release to the public. The Fayette commonwealth's attorney's office has argued that Nunn should not have access to them, either.

Goodwine ruled in February that Nunn could have access to the evidence but not the protected files. Nunn contested that decision. He said in a motion filed April 1 that he would abide by the protective order and would not "disseminate" the photos publicly.

Goodwine reversed her decision in the most recent order, saying she could not "find any authority to prohibit giving Nunn the items."

Nunn, 60, the son of former Gov. Louie B. Nunn, pleaded guilty in 2011 to killing Ross, his former fiancée. Ross, 29, was shot outside her Lexington townhouse in 2009.

Nunn is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He avoided trial and a potential death penalty when he pleaded guilty to murder and violating an emergency protective order.

Nunn said in his motion that the evidence in Scoville's files will help him challenge the legality of his incarceration. The motion said Nunn has "sufficient documentation and a credible witness" to support either a motion to vacate his sentence or a writ of habeas corpus.

Nunn's efforts to obtain the documents have been stymied for months by prosecutors and by restrictions at the prison where he is serving his sentence. Green River Correctional Complex in Muhlenberg County allows inmates to keep only 2 cubic feet of documents in their cells.

The six boxes at issue take up more than 2 cubic feet.

However, prison warden Alan Brown told Nunn he could keep documents in the prison's property room "with the understanding that once this material is reviewed that it will be sent out of the institution," according to court documents.

Nunn said he considers the evidence his property, and he objected to court officials and prosecutors opening the boxes and deciding what he could see.

Nunn's April 1 motion hinted that nude photos of Ross and other women might be in the files. The motion noted that Green River allows inmates to receive "men's magazines."

"Any attempt to censor evidence or attorney files based on prurient grounds would fail any standard of consistency," he wrote.

Nunn does not have an attorney. After Scoville's withdrawal from the case, Nunn was briefly represented by a public defender. However, the Department of Public Advocacy withdrew in March after determining that Nunn was not indigent.

Scoville, Assistant Public Advocate Katherine Dittmeier Holm and Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson declined to comment.

Goodwine ordered that Nunn be brought to court May 31 to retrieve the boxes.

Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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