Brian Crabtree, who pleaded guilty last month in Fayette Circuit Court in the death of a 2-year-old girl, no longer wants to withdraw that plea.
Crabtree, 21, had filed a motion to withdraw the plea because of a Herald-Leader article published just after he entered the guilty plea. The article left him thinking that the death penalty was never a possible punishment for him, and that he had been misled by his attorneys before he accepted a plea deal with prosecutors, according to his attorneys.
But Crabtree told Circuit Judge Thomas Clark at a hearing Friday morning that he had changed his mind again and wanted his guilty plea to stand.
At Friday's hearing, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn said she understood that Crabtree had talked extensively with his attorneys about his plea. She said she wanted to be sure Crabtree's plea was not being made under threat or coercion.
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The judge asked Crabtree if he was satisfied with his attorneys and if he understood that the death penalty was, in fact, an option that could have been presented to a jury.
Crabtree answered, "yes sir."
In the plea deal with prosecutors, Crabtree agreed to plead guilty to the 2008 rape, sodomy and slaying of Katelynn Stinnett. Prosecutors, in return, agreed to recommend to the judge sentences of life without parole on the murder charge, 20 years each on the rape and sodomy charges, and five years each on two additional sexual abuse charges.
Crabtree was being held in the Fayette County jail, awaiting sentencing next month.
After hearing about comments made by Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson regarding Crabtree's intelligence quotient, or IQ, in the newspaper article published Sept. 20, Crabtree thought the death penalty had never been a consideration in his case, according to Crabtree's attorneys.
"This guy had a series of IQ tests as he was growing up that put his IQ at 70 or less," Larson said in the newspaper article.
IQ is an issue in death penalty cases because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing people who are profoundly mentally handicapped is cruel and unusual punishment and in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Kentucky passed a law in 1990 prohibiting the execution of "mentally retarded" people. An IQ test score of 70 or below is one of the factors that Kentucky courts use to determine whether a person is mentally eligible for the death penalty.
Defense attorney Sam Cox said Friday that, in Kentucky, in addition to an IQ test score of 70 or below, a defendant has to have significant deficits in adaptive behavior for the death penalty to be considered.
Cox said Crabtree has undergone several IQ tests, and his score on those tests ranged from 59 to 80.
The Fayette commonwealth's attorney's office has never conceded that Crabtree has a low IQ, as defense attorneys have contended, public defender Tom Griffiths said.
Cox said the defense had filed a motion for a hearing on Crabtree's mental capabilities, which was granted, but the plea deal was reached before the hearing could be held.
Griffiths said the defense would have been taking a chance in a hearing. Had the judge ruled against the defense in a hearing on Crabtree's mental capabilities, an appeal couldn't have been made until after a trial was held in the case, he said.
Crabtree was caring for Katelynn and her brother at their home off Versailles Road in Lexington on Nov. 25, 2008, while their father, Daniel Stinnett, was at work, according to authorities. Stinnett and the children's mother, Angela Johns, were estranged at the time.
A Lexington police sergeant testified at a hearing that Crabtree, after giving Katelynn a bath, dropped the girl, and her head struck the floor. Crabtree then raped her, the sergeant testified.
Crabtree is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 4.