LOUISVILLE — A man serving 52 years in a 1998 Western Kentucky shooting death will get a new trial after a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that his attorney had a conflict of interest because he was defending another suspect in the case.
In a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave prosecutors 120 days to retry Terrance Boykin, 28, on charges of complicity to murder and six counts of complicity to wanton endangerment.
Boykin was convicted in 1999 with his cousin, Treon McElrath, and a friend, Andre Everett, of taking part in the murder of Natasha Wilson in Clinton in far Western Kentucky.
Judge Boyce Martin said representing both Boykin and McElrath at the trial prevented the lawyer from pursuing evidence that might have exonerated one and pointed to the other as having a larger role in the crime.
"Not only was Boykin's Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel at trial violated, but it was also violated on appeal," Martin wrote in an opinion joined by Judge R. Leon Jordan.
Judge Alice M. Batchelder disagreed, saying defense attorney Benjamin Lookofsky did not have an actual conflict of interest and was not constitutionally ineffective in the way he handled the case.
Wilson was shot June 21, 1998, while with her boyfriend at her grandmother's house in Clinton. Wilson had previously filed charges against Boykin for unlawful imprisonment, burglary and sexual abuse. That night, Wilson's boyfriend identified only McElrath as the shooter. But at trial, he said both Boykin and McElrath had a part in the shooting.
Martin said multiple decisions by Lookofsky pointed to his conflict. He said he failed to implicate McElrath and Everett as having committed the crime, didn't question the boyfriend's trial testimony and didn't call Boykin's grandmother to provide an alibi.
Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Attorney General, said prosecutors disagree with the decision, but will not ask for a rehearing.
McElrath's case is also on appeal to the 6th Circuit. McElrath's attorney, Chris Lasch, said he's raised issues similar to those cited in Boykin's case.
Lookofsky did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.