STANTON — Prosecutors can seek the death penalty against James H. “Jamie” Barnett in the June 2007 slaying of Clay City's police chief, a judge ruled Monday.
Barnett's trial in the killing begins Tuesday in Montgomery County, a little more than a year after Police Chief Randy Lacy was fatally shot during an arrest that shook the Powell County community.
Court-appointed attorneys for Barnett, 38, have argued that he is mentally disabled and therefore not eligible for capital punishment.
Lacy arrested Barnett on June 13, 2007, on suspicion of drunken driving. Lacy, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, handcuffed Barnett with his hands in front of him. Police say Barnett, who was in the back seat of the cruiser, apparently grabbed a spare handgun of Lacy's and shot him through the barrier between the front and back seats.
Three of Barnett's sisters testified at a hearing Monday that their brother, the youngest of eight children, was a developmentally delayed baby who grew into a childlike adult. He needed to be cared for constantly, from help with paying bills to reminders to bathe, they said.
Marlene Jones said her brother had developmental problems from birth. She said he was slower to learn how to walk, talk and potty train than her son, who was born a month after Jamie.
“You name it, Jamie was behind on it,” Jones said.
She also discussed how, until he was a teenager, he would play in 50-pound bags of flour at their home. He also collected unused and broken televisions, sometimes stacking as many as five and watching the different TVs at the same time.
Barnett's academic performance was also poor, his sisters testified. Diane Stamper, one of Barnett's sisters, said she had to ride the bus with Barnett more than 50 times when he began the first grade and wait outside the classroom to comfort him.
“He was terrified to go to school by himself,” Stamper said.
Last week, Powell Circuit Judge Frank Fletcher ruled that Barnett was mentally competent to stand trial.
According to Barnett's school records, he failed two grades in elementary school and dropped out in fifth grade.
At Barnett's competency hearing last week, Dr. Amy Trivette with the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center testified that Barnett showed behavior inconsistent with being mentally disabled during her six weeks of observation and failed a test to detect whether inmates were faking a low IQ.
Even though Barnett's IQ test showed he was below the mentally disabled threshold of 70, Trivette said his IQ was probably closer to 84. She based that in part on his advice to other prisoners to stay off drugs.
Barnett has a history of drug abuse, family members and former police officers have said. He has been arrested more than 30 times on at least 59 counts since 1993 for a variety of incidents, many of them drug- or alcohol-related.
Barnett is also the defendant in a civil suit filed by Lacy's widow, Ruth. Lacy says in the suit that Barnett acted recklessly, negligently and carelessly and caused the death of her husband. She is also suing the city of Clay City for failure to provide sufficient police protection, proper training, safety equipment and compensation.