A Lexington man on Death Row will get a new trial on charges he killed two people in a dispute over drugs after the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday concluded there were multiple errors in his case.
The high court's ruling doesn't spare 31-year-old Carlos Lamont Ordway from another possible death sentence, though. Justice Daniel Venters concluded that there's no reason to rule Ordway ineligible for a death sentence should he be convicted a second time for the 2007 shooting deaths of Patrick Lewis, 21, and Rodrieques Turner, 25, both of Louisville.
Venters wrote for the court that a juror was improperly seated in the case and that a detective was improperly allowed to testify about Ordway's behavior and how it didn't appear consistent with a self-defense claim.
Ordway acknowledged to police that he shot Turner and Lewis, but said the men threatened to kill him for drugs and he shot them in self-defense in a moving vehicle and caused a crash.
Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine restricted some of Ordway's testimony in his own defense, saying he could not tell jurors what Lewis and Turner allegedly told him as a confrontation over drugs heated up that night. Goodwine also allowed a police detective to tell jurors how he thought an innocent person would behave after a self-defense shooting.
Venters wrote for the court that, by allowing the detective to testify about Ordway's post-shooting behavior, Goodwine allowed the detective to "authoritatively suggest" how an innocent person would react after a lawful self-defense shooting. By doing so, the detective suggested that Ordway's behavior didn't match the expected reactions, Venters wrote.
If similar testimony were allowed at all trials in which self-defense were claimed, all of those cases would develop into a "battle of the experts" debating how guilty people would act in the situation at hand and whether post-crime conduct pointed to guilt or innocence, Venters wrote.
"The determination of an individual's guilt or innocence must be based upon the evidence of the particular act in question; it cannot be extrapolated from an opinion, that his behavior after the event comports with some standardized perception of how the 'typical' suspect behaves," Venters wrote.
Venters also took issue with Goodwine's handling of the jury pool. The judge declined to dismiss from the jury the sister of a victim's advocate who worked with prosecutors on Ordway's case.
The advocate helps family members of the victims, provides comfort and functions as a liaison between the victim's family and the prosecutors.
Ordway's attorneys had sought to remove the woman for cause, but Goodwine declined to do so.
"This close association by a prospective juror's sister with an important participant in the very case being tried compels that the juror be stricken for cause," Venters wrote.
Ordway, who is being held at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville, is also charged with bank robbery in Louisville. That case is pending.