Defense wins a round in case of man charged in UK student's death

Adrian Benton
Adrian Benton

A judge ruled Friday that the defense for Adrian Benton can tell a jury about a co-defendant's guilty plea in the 2006 shooting death of a University of Kentucky student.

Fayette Circuit Court Judge Thomas Clark partly sustained a defense motion to let a jury know that Raymond Wright, 29, pleaded guilty on May 6 to murder in the shooting death of UK student John Mattingly III.

Mattingly was shot in the head during a home invasion on Wilson Street in May 2006 and died the following July. He was the son of Marion County Judge-Executive John Mattingly Jr. and Janet Mattingly, and was a senior majoring in secondary education.

The trial for Benton, 31, is scheduled to start Monday in Lexington and is expected to last more than a week. Benton is charged with complicity to murder, first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, and tampering with physical evidence.

During his guilty plea last week, Wright acknowledged shooting Mattingly with a firearm.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kimberly Henderson-Baird opposed the defense motion, arguing that it might make Benton appear less culpable.

"We're not alleging Benton was the shooter," Henderson-Baird said in court Friday. "Whether Wright was the shooter is irrelevant" to the Benton case.

But public defender Casey Holland said "it is clearly relevant" because in order for the prosecution to prove complicity, they "have to prove the underlying charge was there."

Wright is scheduled to be sentenced June 17. Under a plea agreement, Wright would not face the death penalty but would receive a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader