Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark overruled a defense motion Wednesday that sought to exclude evidence from the upcoming trial of Robert Markham Taylor, who is charged with murder in the death of Alex Johnson.
Johnson’s body was found in January 2014 inside a barrel in four feet of water in the Kentucky River. Johnson, 32, was a chef at the University of Kentucky’s Hilary J. Boone Center.
Defense attorneys Jason Hart and Sandra Downs sought to exclude photos of marijuana, a handgun and $10,522.28 in cash that were in Taylor’s possession when he was arrested on Jan. 22, 2014, in Pharr, Texas, just north of the Mexican border.
Hart argued in court that Taylor, 30, is not charged with drug offenses and that the photos are irrelevant.
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“None of that — there is no connection between that and the charged offenses in this case,” Hart said. “There is no mention that this is actually the money alleged to have been taken in this case, or of the drugs.”
But Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn said the prosecution’s theory of the case is that Taylor’s motive for killing Johnson was for his marijuana and cash.
“The fact that Mark Taylor also sold marijuana, made statements to his co-defendant regarding the marijuana and cash, went back to Alex Johnson’s apartment after killing him to steal marijuana and cash, and was ultimately found in Texas near the Mexico border with a large quantity of marijuana and cash, supports this theory,” Red Corn wrote in a reply to the defense objections to the evidence.
“There is no requirement that we prove that the money that he had at the border or the marijuana that he had at the border was the same,” Red Corn told the judge in court. “...This was flight. This is evidence of guilt. The things he had with him at the time he was going into Mexico are further evidence of that.”
Co-defendant Timothy Ballard, 44, will testify at trial that, after Johnson was killed, Taylor and Ballard went back to Johnson’s apartment for the purpose of getting marijuana and money.
Judge Clark agreed with the prosecution that evidence is relevant and that the flight to Texas “is certainly relevant under the case law in this type of case.”
Ballard pleaded guilty in April to kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Ballard told Lexington police that he saw Taylor beat Johnson to death on Dec. 20, 2013, the day Johnson disappeared.
A condition of Ballard’s plea agreement is that he must testify at the trial. Taylor and Ballard are not eligible for the death penalty, according to a March ruling.
Clark scheduled a status hearing for June 3, three days before the trial is set to begin.