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St. Clair death sentence at Supreme Court

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By Bob White

ELIZABETHTOWN - In a 180-degree turn from prosecutors’ long-standing opinions, special attorneys with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office chose last week to postpone a Hardin County re-trial of convicted killer Michael St. Clair until a Supreme Court ruling on his appeal of a Bullitt County death penalty is made.

A Bullitt County jury found St. Clair guilty of the 1991 murder of Bardstown resident Frank Brady in 1998 and sentenced him to death, but that penalty was overturned by Kentucky’s Supreme Court in 2004.

After a month-long re-sentencing phase, Bullitt County jury sent St. Clair to death row again in 2005.

His conviction for Brady’s kidnapping from a Sonora truck stop was also overturned in 2004.

Proceedings leading up to a second re-trail in Hardin County for Brady’s kidnapping have resulted in scores of hearings since 2007, and a very short-lived trail last month ending in a mistrial.

Senior Judge Steven Ryan ruled Kentucky Attorney General special prosecutor Todd Lewis wrongly alluded to St. Clair’s shooting of a Denver EMT in New Mexico - a crime that evidence points to St. Clair committing, but one which he had not been convicted of, or even charged with.

A second Hardin County re-trial was scheduled for Aug. 4, but St. Clair attorney Vince Yustas said that may not occur if the Supreme Court upholds the 2005 death penalty.

Ryan’s order removing the case from the docket was made after a Monday hearing, according to Hardin Circuit Court records.

Leading up to the June re-trial, Yustas argued repeatedly that trying that trying St. Clair again and again in Hardin County was a waste of already-stressed state resources, since the Bullitt County death penalty for virtually the same crime could seal St. Clair’s fate.

“This is sensibly the way to go about it,” Yustas said Thursday morning. “This saves hundreds of thousands of dollars for the state and saves the (Brady) family from having to experience a re-creation of Mr. Brady’s death again and again.”

The appeal for St. Clair’s 2005 death penalty was argued in March before Kentucky’s Supreme Court, Yustas said.

The next round of Supreme Court rulings is slated for announcement in August, but Yustas said that does not guarantee a decision on St. Clair’s appeal being made at that time.