LOUISVILLE — A man found guilty of manslaughter but mentally ill in the killing of a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy could be released from prison soon after the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday gave him credit against his sentence for time spent in a mental hospital before trial.
A split high court ruled that in 2008 the Kentucky Department of Corrections improperly took away nearly four years of credit from Peter Bard, 46, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the death of deputy Floyd Cheeks.
The high court's ruling was handed down 18 years to the day after Bard shot and killed Cheeks, 37, who was trying to serve an emergency protective order on Bard's brother, Ivan Bard, who wasn't home when the shooting occurred.
With the restoration of the time served, Bard might be eligible for release from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. It was not immediately clear Thursday whether or when Bard would be released. Online records with the Corrections Department listed Bard as an inmate as of Thursday afternoon with a projected release date of Jan. 26.
Bard has been diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia and has been in prison or a state hospital since his arrest in 1993. He was indicted on a murder charge that year but was declared incompetent to stand trial on Sept. 12, 1995, and the indictment was thrown out. On Aug. 5, 1998, Bard was indicted again, but 20 days later that indictment was dismissed for the same reason. Bard was indicted a third time in March 2000 and went to trial in 2002, when he was found guilty but mentally ill of first-degree manslaughter.
At the time of sentencing, the court credited Bard with time served for the years in a mental institution. The Corrections Department revoked that credit in 2008 after Bard was released for a short time to Central State Hospital before being transferred back to prison.
Dan Goyette, Bard's public defender in Louisville, said the ruling means Bard has completed his prison sentence and could be released once the ruling becomes final in 20 days, unless prosecutors seek a rehearing. Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Attorney General's office, said a rehearing would be sought.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Harry Rothgerber said the was giving Bard time off his sentence that "he does not deserve."
"All I know is he's being released before the original release date," Rothgerber said. "We will have to live with it unless a rehearing is granted."
Justice Will T. Scott, writing for the majority, found that the Corrections Department did not have the authority to change the calculation on time served for Bard in 2008, when he was released from prison, then rearrested a short time later.
"The decision to incorporate the calculation into its sentence was an exercise of the court's discretion," Scott wrote. "Because the alleged error in this case was a direct result of judicial discretion, any error is judicial."
Chief Justice John D. Minton, the lone dissenter in the case, wrote that the trial court did not calculate Bard's jail time credit, and it did not appear the trial judge considered anything related to it.
"And, nothing indicates the trial court saw or considered the number of days to which Bard was entitled," Minton wrote.
Bard was sentenced under an old law that gave judges the power to determine credit for time served. The state changed the law in 2011, giving the Department of Corrections the authority to make those determinations, but the law wasn't retroactive so it didn't apply to Bard, the court ruled.
The Kentucky attorney general's office declined immediate comment.