The 2015 Pembroke triple murder trial continued in Hardin County against Christian “Kit” Martin Monday. Martin, 52, is accused of killing Calvin and Pamela Phillips as well as their neighbor Edward Dansereau, and burning two of the bodies.
Martin appeared in Hardin County court in front of Christian Circuit Judge John Atkins along with his defense attorneys Tom Griffiths, Doug Moore and Olivia Adams.
Hearing regarding witnesses invoking their Fifth Amendment rights
Atkins held a hearing away from the jury regarding two witnesses that both the commonwealth and defense had subpoenaed to testify in the case.
The court was advised Monday that Martin’s ex-wife Joan Harmon and her son, Justin Harmon, had both obtained their own lawyers. Those lawyers argued that their clients wanted to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights to not testify at trial for fear of possible self-incrimination.
The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being compelled to give testimony.
The hearing was held to determine if those two witnesses would be required to testify as they were subpoenaed or if they would be allowed to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify.
Justin Harmon’s lawyer, Gregory Price, explained that his client intended to invoke the Fifth Amendment to all questions that would be asked of him at trial after he heard Griffith’s opening statements of the trial implicating his mother Joan Harmon as being a possible “alternate perpetrator.”
In his opening statements, Griffiths brought up the possibility of someone placing the bullet that matched Martin’s .45 handgun, opening the door to an alternative perpetrator. The bullet was found around five months after the initial investigation by a relative of one of the victims. A set of dog tags with Martin’s name were also found after the initial investigation.
“Defense counsel mentions that Ms. Harmon then said that she would ruin the defendant’s life, that there were spare dog tags that she had access to, that she had access to guns, that she had access to the neighbors,” Price said. “All that applies to Justin as well.
“And then at the 40-minute mark, I think that what really bring Justin into this is that (Griffiths) mentions that there is a burnt car, the burnt car is several miles away and he specifically says, ‘If there’s a burnt car, somebody had to drive the car and somebody had to drive the second car,’ and that’s where Justin can be implicated as well.”
Price added that Justin Elijah Harmon was also a suspect in the case at one point and was DNA tested.
Joan Harmon’s lawyer, Brandi Jones, argued via Zoom that Christian County prosecutors have had suspicions of her being a suspect, and that those suspicions were made known prior to Martin being charged.
Jones continued to argue that Griffiths advised both Jones and Price that he intends to use the alternative perpetrator route for Joan Harmon in Martin’s defense, shifting the potential blame of the murders on Harmon rather than Martin.
Joan Harmon has already been mentioned several times by the defense as having potential involvement.
Jones continued to argue, citing case law, that witnesses are allowed to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and choose not to testify in trial in fear of self-incrimination regardless of what the answer to any question may be, but that the potential danger of any question could incriminate them, despite the witnesses’ answers.
Atkins initially ruled at the hearing that despite the witnesses invoking their Fifth Amendment rights, they would be required to testify as the case law he initially read did not excuse witnesses from being required to testify simply from the fear of the possibility of self-incrimination.
However, Jones continued to argue on behalf of her client and convinced the judge to change his mind.
“To sustain the privilege (of the Fifth Amendment) it need only be evident from the implication of the question and the setting in which that it is asked — and here’s the crux of it — that a responsive answer to the question or the explanation of why it cannot be answered might be dangerous, because injurious disclosure could result,” Atkins said as he read additional case law. “That extrapolation of this ruling changes my mind.
“I’m going to quash the subpoenas and allow the witnesses to invoke the Fifth Amendment.”
Attorney General Special Prosecutors continue calling witnesses
Attorney General Special Prosecutors Barbara Whaley and Alex Garcia called Christian County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Reid and CCSO Sgt. Brandon Myers to the stand Monday. Both deputies worked in tandem during the initial investigation taking photos of the crime scenes and evidence as well as collecting evidence for later testing.
Reid testified that he had been tasked with photographing the scene and the evidence, while Myers testified to being the main detective who collected evidence in the case during the first two days of the investigation.
Both testified to photographing and collecting evidence during search warrants of the Phillips’ home, Dansereau’s home and Martin’s home.
During the cross examination of Myers by Griffiths, Myers confirmed in his testimony that he had collected the wallet and cell phone found on the shelving in the foyer of the Phillips’ home where the dog tag belonging to Martin was later found, but that he did not collect any dog tags as evidence in the case. The string that the dog tags were later found in can be seen in the photos, although the tags themselves do not show up.
Myers also confirmed during the cross examination that despite the home being cluttered, he was able to find the subpoena requiring Calvin Phillips to testify in the court martial against Martin, laying on top of several other pieces of paperwork without moving any objects.
The commonwealth also called CCSO Detective Scott Noisworthy, who was the lead detective for CCSO in the case, to testify.
Noisworthy testified to the process he took in investigating the case as well as how he worked together with Kentucky State Police Detective Scott Smith.
He also testified as to how the Phillips’ family provided him with additional evidence in the case after search warrants had already been conducted on the Phillips’ home several times before. Those items included the dog tags, a .22 caliber bullet fragment and although he did not obtain it himself, the .45 shell casing.
During the cross examination of Noisworthy, he confirmed that he did obtain a phone belonging to Pamela Phillips from a Hopkinsville AT&T store and that he obtained video footage from the store showing that Joan Harmon had brought the phone to the AT&T store.
CCSO Detective Justin Meacham testified that retrieving and collecting the .45 shell casing was his only involvement in the case and confirmed during cross examination by the defense that prior to collecting it, he had no knowledge of how the casing ended up in the back porch of the Phillips’ home.
Finally, the commonwealth concluded Monday’s portion of the trial by calling U.S. Army Maj. James Garrett, who was the lead prosecutor against Martin in his military court martial. Garrett described the nature of the court martial against Martin and told the jury that the court martial would have never happened if it weren’t for Calvin Phillips.
Garrett also testified that the last time he had spoken with Calvin Phillips was on Nov. 5, 2015, on which day he told Garrett that he feared what Martin might do to him. Garrett testified to later learning of his murder and explained the eventual results of the court martial against Martin.
Martin was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to serve 90 days in a military prison, without testimony from Phillips.
During Garrett’s cross examination, Garrett also testified that he called Katherine Foster, who worked as an Christian County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney at the time, and advised her that Martin was being tried in a court martial.
Garrett testified that he called Foster to let her know that information as Foster was prosecuting a case against Joan Harmon at the time and the charges were brought about by Martin. He did not share what the charges against Harmon were.
Joan Harmon was charged with Bigamy when it was found out during her divorce from Martin that she was still married to another person. Those charges were diverted right before the current Martin trial began.
The trial is scheduled to continue at 8 a.m. Tuesday.