Claude Russell murder trial sees another delay

By BY MARY GARRISON MINYARD mgarrison@cadizrecord.com

Claude Russell, the Cadiz man accused in the 2002 shooting death of Chantell Humphries, will likely have to wait until August for his retrial.

Trigg County Circuit Court Judge C.A. "Woody" Woodall issued another continuance Friday during a pre-trial status hearing at Trigg County Justice Center in Cadiz. The retrial -- which was slated to begin April 10 -- is tentatively set to begin at 9 a.m. Aug. 8, pending appellate court proceedings related to the case. No rulings on the matter had been issued at the state appeals court as of Friday.

"Given that, it is difficult for me to see that we're going to be able to get this case tried in a month's time not knowing for sure whether we'll have an answer to that question tomorrow, a week from tomorrow or not at all," Woodall said. "You all have witnesses that need to know one way or another -- both sides; I have jurors that need to know, and in fact I'm going to have to summons in another panel to join the one that we have. So, my thought is that, reluctantly, I'm going to have to continue this trial yet again."

Russell's retrial had originally been set to begin March 21, 2016, however special prosecutor Tim Coleman moved for immediate appeal after Woodall ruled that evidence of Lanny Alexander, brother to Trigg County Judge-Executive and former Cadiz Police Chief Hollis Alexander, as an alternative perpetrator could be introduced at trial. Woodall also ruled that testimony related to the victim's reputation and history could be presented to the jury for consideration.

Defense attorney John Stewart since filed a motion asserting Russell's constitutional right to a quick trial, a point he reiterated at Friday's hearing.

"The Commonwealth has appealed this matter as a statutory right," Stewart said. "We do not believe it should trump my client's right to a speedy trial."

The matter could be delayed further still. Coleman is one of three candidates being considered to fill the 38th Circuit judge's position. Coleman joins Harold Wayne Newton and Glenn Miller, of Hancock and Ohio counties respectively, in the running for the appointment. Coleman said the list had gone to Gov. Matt Bevin's office March 2; Bevin has 60 days to appoint to the position.

Should Coleman be appointed to the position, he said there were a couple of options in Russell's case.

"Hopefully -- you know we got new dates for this summer -- we can go forward with that with whomever replaces me," Coleman said. "If not we'll have to appoint another special prosecutor."

Attorney General Andy Beshear would appoint a new special prosecutor in the event that Coleman's replacement could not take the case.

Russell was first indicted on murder charges in the case in 2002, however the indictment was dismissed shortly thereafter due to lack of evidence.

He was again indicted and brought to a 2012 trial, which resulted in a hung jury.

Russell is scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference at 10 a.m. May 12 in Trigg County Circuit Court.