Death penalty still a possibility in Lexington murder case

The defendant in a 2010 Lexington murder case still faces the possibility of the death penalty after a judge Monday overruled an attempt to dismiss accompanying robbery charges.

Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark found probable cause that it was unlawful for Darnell Eugene Farrier to use force against Jerrod Vice. The judge rejected Farrier's claim of self-defense.

Farrier, 31, is accused of killing Jerry Waugh and assaulting Vice. Both men were found shot in the head inside a white Chevrolet Equinox sitting in the middle of Kenton Street on Sept. 19, 2010.

Waugh, 29, later died, and Vice, now 29, was shot in the face and wrist. Vice still has a slug in his head, according to a police sergeant's testimony during a Monday hearing. The hearing was held to determine whether Farrier is immune from criminal prosecution based on Kentucky's "stand your ground" law.

Farrier is also charged with two counts of first-degree robbery. State law requires an "aggravating circumstance" — an accompanying crime or circumstance — to make homicide eligible for the death penalty.

In this case, the commonwealth asserts that it will prove that Farrier committed murder while engaging in the robbery of Waugh and Vice.

The defense argued there was no probable cause for robbery because the items of value — a cellphone, money and drugs — were found at the crime scene. If robbery charges were dismissed, Farrier should not be eligible for the death penalty, public defender Craig Newbern argued.

But Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kathy Phillips said there was enough evidence to support the robbery charges.

Waugh and Vice had come from Paris to Lexington, where they picked up Farrier and then went to several locations to sell pills, testified Lexington Police Sgt. David Richardson, a former detective with robbery-homicide who investigated the case. Vice drove the SUV, Waugh sat in the front passenger seat, and Farrier sat in the back seat behind Waugh.

After one of these stops, Farrier got into the vehicle and immediately shot Waugh behind the right ear. Farrier then demanded money and a cell phone from Vice, and then shot Vice, Richardson testified.

Police found $294 in cash and 10 30mg Oxycodone pills in Waugh's jeans. They also found marijuana in the toe of his left shoe.

In an interview with police, Farrier initially denied being with Waugh or Vice on the day of the shooting. Later, Farrier acknowledged that he was with them, but said he shot out of self-defense. Farrier told police he was scared because Vice allegedly threatened him over a debt that Farrier owed.

"I don't think we have a robbery," Newbern argued. "We have a case where a man is afraid for his life. He believed his life was endangered."

Under Kentucky's stand your ground law, a law enforcement agency may not arrest a person "for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful."

When the stand your ground defense is invoked, prosecutors must present enough evidence before trial to establish probable cause that the use of force was illegal.

Judge Clark overruled the defense motion and rejected Farrier's claim of self-defense.

Kentucky's stand your ground law is under review by the state Supreme Court. A divided Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in June that a manslaughter charge against a Northern Kentucky man should be dismissed because prosecutors could not rebut his claim of self-defense under the law.

Similar laws in other states have drawn attention and scrutiny since neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, 17, during a Feb. 26 fight in Florida. Zimmerman says the shooting was in self-defense. Zimmerman faces a second-degree murder charge.

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