SHEPHERDSVILLE - Re-sentencing of the Oklahoman convicted of murdering Bardstown resident Frank Brady in 1991 could occur in March or April after years of delays and upsets.
Senior Judge Ken Conliffe, on Wednesday, asked attorneys on both sides of the Bullitt County murder case against Michael St. Clair to find a two-week time slot between March and April to accommodate the re-sentencing.
Twice before have death penalties stemming from St. Clair’s original conviction for Brady’s murder been overturned by Kentucky’s Supreme Court for blunders justices said were made by the court.
Conliffe estimates the re-sentencing case could two weeks to present to a new jury. A 2005 resentencing phase took nearly a month to complete, from the first day jurors were screened to the day St. Clair was again condemned to death.
St. Clair is also preparing for a new trial in Hardin County on a related kidnapping charge, for which a previous conviction was overturned in 2005. An attempt to retry him last year ended in mistrial.
In Hardin County, St. Clair is accused of kidnapping Brady at gunpoint from a Sonora truck stop, then driving the former distillery worker’s pickup into Bullitt County, where Brady was gunned down on Old Boston Road, near Lebanon Junction.
The crimes occurred in fall 1991 and prosecutors and courts in two jurisdictions have worked to prosecute him and conclude the case ever since.
Also pending is an early 2010 motion asking for a new trial on the Bullitt County conviction. St. Clair’s appeals attorney, Meghan Smith, claims the first Bullitt jury which convicted St. Clair could have been misled by ballistics evidence and related testimony.
Conliffe said he hopes that motion for a new trial will be ruled upon within the month.
The cost to have prosecuted St. Clair repeatedly since 1991 has been estimated by some to have exceeded $5 million, with each death penalty-possible case costing the state nearly $1 million to conduct.
Some of that estimated cost stems from the heavy security used to transfer St. Clair from Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville to courtrooms in Bullitt and Hardin for each hearing.
There have been more than 200 hearings between the cases in both counties.
Half of Brady’s 10 siblings have died from old age and other natural causes since efforts to convict and penalize the man blamed for his death began.
Like salt in a wound, the convicted killer has repeatedly joked about being a $4 million, $5 million and, now, a “$6 million dollar man.”
Another twist in the case was this year’s unexpected retirement of Vince Yustas as St. Clair’s appointed attorney. Yustas had represented St. Clair for more than five years. Another public defender, Chris McCrary, withdrew from the case this year after accepting a position in the Hardin County Attorney’s office.
Scott Drabenstadt was recently assigned the Department for Public Advocacy’s role to defend St. Clair in the Bullitt and Hardin County cases.
Smith remains involved with her motion for the new trial.
Conliffe on Wednesday asked prosecutors Todd Lewis and Dana Todd, as well as defense counsel, to return to Bullitt County Jan. 19 to discuss possible resentencing and trial dates.
If and when any resentencing or retrial begins in Bullitt County, St. Clair will likely be housed at the Department of Corrections’ LaGrange complex. He’s been housed at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville since being convicted in Bullitt County. Much of St. Clair’s time in Eddyville has been on Death Row. He remains a tenant of Death Row, even though the 2005 penalty was overturned.
St. Clair is presently serving multiple life sentences, without parole, for murders in Oklahoma, which is where St. Clair and a former codefendant escaped prior to a nationwide crime spree that culminated in Brady’s death, a shootout with Kentucky State Police and a stolen truck being set ablaze in southern Hardin County.
Some witnesses to events surrounding Brady’s death are no longer available to testify in the kidnapping case, but prosecutors have told judges presiding over the case before that the Commonwealth will settle for nothing less than another death penalty for St. Clair in the event he’s again convicted of the kidnapping that was a prelude to Brady’s death in Bullitt County.
Some people familiar with St. Clair’s case wonder why Kentucky won’t cut its losses and return St. Clair to Oklahoma, where he’ll stay behind bars to serve his life without parole sentence.
Special prosecutors, however, won’t consider that an option and some Brady family members want to see St. Clair be held accountable for their relative’s execution-styled murder.