Late-breaking gun evidence and a newly found witness forced a judge Thursday to postpone the trial for Marty Lee Roe, the man accused of killing Lexington dermatologist Dr. Martha Post.
The two-week trial had been scheduled to begin Monday, but Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. decided it was best to delay the proceeding to give the defense time to review the new evidence.
Ishmael scheduled a status hearing in the case for March 22, at which time he will set a new trial date. The developments irked Ishmael, who has repeatedly said in court that he wanted the trial to start this month. The judge had already granted a one-week delay from the initial Jan. 22 start date.
"It bothers me when everybody stood on their head and everybody worked so hard, and we have these new developments," Ishmael said. But to proceed to trial on Monday is "clearly not fair to the defendant," he added.
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Post, 55, was shot in the early evening of Sept. 1, 2011, as she backed her van out of the parking lot at her medical office. The van then rolled into a car on Huguenard Drive.
After the shooting, Lexington police focused on Roe, 66, a transient whom Post and her husband, Dr. Robert Truitt, had once befriended and invited to their home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Truitt said Roe had been stalking his wife.
Post complained to Lexington police in June 2010 that she had received numerous unwanted phone calls from Roe, who had done renovation work in the building where she and her husband had offices. According to police records, Post said Roe wanted her to leave her husband and be with him.
Part of the new evidence is a trace on the gun that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted on a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Roe.
"This is, in fact, the firearm that killed" Post, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Cindy Reiker said during Thursday's 90-minute hearing.
The trace of the gun's serial number and purchase history was first requested on Sept. 20, 2011, but Reiker said the prosecution did not get the results until this week.
The report allegedly names a person — who was not identified in Thursday's hearing — who sold the gun to Roe. It's unclear whether that report will be sealed or will be made public in the court record. In any case, it was not available after the hearing, which ended after the clerk's office had closed for the day.
The other new evidence incriminating to Roe is the testimony of an inmate at Green River Correctional Complex, a state prison in Muhlenberg County in Western Kentucky. That person — who was also not identified in Thursday's hearing — apparently shared a jail cell at the Fayette County Detention Center with Roe. What this witness will say is unknown, but such sources typically testify to unknown facts or admissions of guilt by the defendant.
Public defender Shannon Brooks-English characterized the unnamed witness as a "jailhouse snitch" who is "unreliable" and who is "obviously getting a deal" in return for testimony.
Describing his options from the bench, Ishmael said he could either continue the trial to another date or start the trial Monday but suppress the prosecution's late-breaking evidence. Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson stood and strongly objected to suppression of new evidence.
"I don't think you have the authority to do that," Larson told the judge. "A continuance is the remedy. The commonwealth has the right to present its strongest case."
Ishmael then read from Kentucky's rules of criminal procedure, which say that it is within his discretion to "permit the discovery or inspection of materials not previously disclosed, grant a continuance, or prohibit the party from introducing in evidence the material not disclosed ..."
"I do believe I have the authority," Ishmael said. Larson had no comment after the hearing.
Brooks-English said Roe, who had previously been vocal about his desire for the trial to proceed, "understands the ruling."
"It's the most just thing to happen for Mr. Roe," Brooks-English said.