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Witness accounts assailed in truck-wash slaying

A defense attorney made an impassioned plea Monday morning on behalf of a Lexington man on trial in the 2003 slaying of a truck driver, accusing a cohort of violent felons of conspiring to pin the blame on his client.

Defense attorney Scott Drabenstadt noted the inconsistencies of prosecution witnesses who accused Marc Buchanan of robbing and killing Carl Gene McClung, a West Virginian, at the Scrub-a-Truck wash on Nandino Boulevard in August 2003. Each witness had pending charges and prior records.

And the details of the witnesses' stories varied, from minor details like the car driven to the crime scene to glaring inconsistencies like the race of the victim and one of the perpetrators, Drabenstadt said.

"Every one of them is a violent felon. They came in here and they lied," Drabenstadt told jurors in his closing argument in Fayette Circuit Court. "And they have stolen, temporarily, his freedom. Temporarily — because this jury is not going to let it happen. This jury is not going to stand for this."

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Traci Caneer responded that the defense is peddling a conspiracy theory that doesn't add up.

"I wish all of our witnesses were fine, upstanding citizens," she said. "But it's the reality of life, and the reality of crime, that not too many fine, upstanding citizens run with the likes of these people."

Caneer pointed to three witnesses who she said had no motive to lie and were not given deals.

One of those was Buchanan's uncle, Richard Morrison. Morrison testified that Buchanan confessed the slaying to him in jail in 2005. The alleged confession came after police tested Buchanan's DNA but before he was charged with the slaying.

Morrison knew key details that he could have learned only from Buchanan, such as the involvement of another perpetrator, Jeremy D. Rice, and the fact that McClung had a knife on him, Caneer said.

She asked the jury why Morrison would implicate his own nephew and get ostracized by his family?

Another man, Tommy Carpenter, told police he drove Buchanan and Rice to the crime scene. Though Carpenter was never charged, it made no sense for him to lie about Buchanan's involvement, Caneer said.

She also pointed to the testimony of a Lexington defense attorney who said that Buchanan had tried to hire him to represent Rice.

Morrison said that Buchanan was trying to ingratiate himself with Rice so Rice would not blame him for the slaying.

Drabenstadt argued that two brothers with a lengthy history of armed robbery, Adrian and Arian Brown, were responsible for McClung's death. The Brown brothers had been involved in a series of high-profile home invasions — and another homicide — leading up to the truck stop slaying.

Arian Brown was called to testify by prosecutors. Adrian Brown was called by the defense. Both testified that they lied to police.

Drabenstadt says the brothers conspired with the likes of Morrison, Carpenter and other convicted felons to throw Buchanan under the bus.

Caneer acknowledged that the big break in the case occurred when Arian Brown told police in early 2004 that Buchanan and Rice killed McClung. Police had no leads until then.

DNA testing of clumps of hair found in the truck later confirmed Rice's involvement. Rice was convicted of complicity to murder and robbery in September 2006.

But no physical evidence tied Buchanan to the crime. Caneer said Buchanan was arrested after Morrison corroborated Arian Brown's claims.

The idea that the Brown brothers could coordinate such a large conspiracy while being held in separate prisons since 2004 is too much to believe, Caneer said.

The jury began deliberations at 2:30 p.m. Monday.