There is no dispute that Carlos Lamont Ordway shot and killed two men after a dispute about drugs caused a car crash in Lexington in 2007. What his attorneys and prosecutors disagree about is whether the fatal shots were fired in self-defense and if jurors at Ordway's trial were misled about the situation by a judge's rulings.
The Kentucky Supreme Court in Frankfort on Thursday zeroed in on the self-defense aspect of Ordway's case. They questioned attorneys about whether a judge improperly truncated Ordway's ability to tell his story and if the judge mistakenly allowed a detective to offer expert testimony on how someone claiming self-defense should have acted after the shootings.
"In a criminal case, does it matter what a typical person would do? Doesn't it matter what this person would do?" Justice Mary Noble asked during an hour of arguments.
The court will weigh the evidence before ruling on Ordway's bid to overturn his death sentence.
Ordway, 31, was sentenced to death in 2010 for the slayings of Patrick Lewis, 21, and Rodrieques Turner, 25, both of Louisville, after an Aug. 11, 2007 gun fight and car crash in Lexington. Ordway claimed the men threatened to kill him for drugs, causing a shootout in a moving vehicle and subsequent crash. Prosecutors say Ordway fired two fatal shots at Lewis and Turner after the crash.
Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine restricted some of Ordway's testimony about his self-defense claim, saying he could not tell jurors what Lewis and Turner allegedly told him as a confrontation over drugs heated up that night. Goodwine also allowed a police detective to tell jurors how he thought an innocent person would behave after a self-defense shooting.
Ordway's attorney, Brandon Neil Jewell, told the justices that stopping Ordway's testimony undermined his defense because jurors were left with a story that was hard to believe because it was quite vague about what precipitated the shooting. Jewell said Lewis and Turner threatened to kill Ordway unless he gave them the rest of drugs he was carrying. That information would have explained his state of mind at the time of the slayings, Jewell said.
Justice Lisbeth Hughes Abramson noted that the court record doesn't include any proposed testimony by Ordway, making the claim that a self-defense argument was undermined hard to consider.
Assistant Attorney General Heather Fryman told the justices that Ordway got to tell jurors that Lewis and Turner held a gun to his head, but the panel also heard evidence that Ordway had no defensive injuries.
The justices also quizzed attorneys on Goodwine's decision to allow a police detective to say how he thought a person acting in self-defense should have behaved after the shootings.