Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. decided Tuesday to limit evidence that a jury will hear in the trial of a man accused of the wanton murder of two people who died in a January 2014 collision on Georgetown Road.
The judge also ruled that Keenan McLaughlin, 24, of Lexington, will be tried initially only on the two counts of wanton murder and another count of leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid. Eight other counts — including charges of drug trafficking and receiving stolen property — will be dealt with after that trial, which is scheduled to start April 27.
Keenan is accused of wanton murder in the deaths of Luis Gonzalez, 62, of Georgetown, and Geneva Rose Spencer, 38, of Lexington. Gonzalez died in the Jan. 14, 2014, crash on Georgetown Road near Kearney Road. Spencer died the following March after weeks of hospitalization.
Police said McLaughlin was fleeing from a Scott County sheriff's deputy when the car he was driving collided with a vehicle driven by Gonzalez.
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McLaughlin allegedly left the scene and police later found him in a house on East Second Street in Lexington.
At the conclusion of a nearly two-hour hearing, Ishmael ruled that evidence Lexington police had of McLaughlin selling heroin in the days before the collision were prejudicial and not admissible at the April trial.
Under Kentucky rules of evidence, others crimes or acts may be introduced at trial if they have some bearing on the case, such as to prove motive or planning, or if they are so "inextricably intertwined" with other evidence essential to the case that trying to separate them can't be done.
"Really what we're trying to do is make sure we get a fair trial," said public advocate Kim Green. "There is a very bad association with heroin, and what we're concerned about is that the jury decides the case based on the facts regarding the murder charges and not on unrelated offenses."