The suspect accused of the 2015 Pembroke triple murder appeared in Christian Circuit Court Thursday afternoon to discuss matters regarding the case’s upcoming trial next month.
Christian Martin, 52, appeared in court via Zoom while at the Christian County Jail while his defense attorneys Tom Griffiths, Doug Moore and Olivia Adams appeared in person in Circuit Court Judge John Atkins’ courtroom.
Martin’s trial begins May 31 in Elizabethtown and both the defense and commonwealth have been preparing for a jury trial and how it would proceed with COVID-19 regulations and safety precautions.
With that in mind, the Attorney General Special Prosecutors have been meeting with Martin’s lawyers to discuss how the court would select a jury.
During Thursday afternoon’s court hearing, Atkins advised the court that there had been an agreed order tendered between the two parties regarding jury selection. However, he noted Attorney General Special Prosecutor Barbara Whaley had not yet signed the order, but it was nonetheless dubbed as an agreed order.
Atkins asked Whaley if there was in fact an agreement between the two, to which said the commonwealth had agreed with one exception.
Whaley said the exception was that she felt that individual questioning of jurors would not be necessary and the court could instead rely on group questioning, especially with the commonwealth no longer seeking the death penalty in the casse.
“When we discussed these procedures, it was before, I believe, the commonwealth filed its notice of its intent to seek enhanced penalties, so it’s with the understanding that we were going to have to do the death (penalty) qualifying through individual (questioning),” Whaley said.
“When we filed a notice of intent to seek enhanced penalties, of course, it eliminates the possibility of capital punishment (or death penalty).”
Whaley continued to explain that the case was originally moved to Hardin County to avoid jurors being tainted by pretrial publicity and because the trial is taking place there, the commonwealth doesn’t believe the jury pool will have much knowledge on the case prior to the trial.
“So, we don’t believe that individual voir dire (jury questioning) on pretrial publicity is necessary — that can be addressed with group questions,” Whaley said.
Atkins told the court that he agreed pretrial publicity was not likely to be a great issue in Hardin County, but stated that the court will have to remain flexible in jury selection.
“I think we need to be flexible about it and wait and see,” Atkins said.
Atkins added that he had also seen a jury questionnaire in the case file, but Griffiths explained that while it has been presented to the commonwealth, a resolution regarding the questionnaire has not yet been made. Atkins required that the two parties reach a resolution on that matter in the coming weeks.
Atkins also pointed out that the defense had submitted several motions, but he had not seen any written responses from the commonwealth on those motions.
Whaley explained that she and AG Special Prosecutor Alex Garcia had not had time to submit any responses and requested an extension to May 4.
Atkins agreed to the request and recessed the hearing until May 6, on which date the court will take up those motions. What those motions were, were not shared during court Thursday afternoon.
Atkins added that he was advised by the Hardin County Circuit Court that there would be no problem securing a jury pool of 200 people if necessary for jury selection.
Griffiths also explained that the defense is still waiting on the final report from the commonwealth’s cell phone expert on the cell phone analysis in the case.
He stated that he was told by the cell phone expert that last week his computer had crashed, preventing him from finishing the final report.
Garcia ensured the defense that the report would be finalized no later than next Friday.
According to archives, Martin allegedly shot and killed Calvin Phillips with a .45 caliber pistol and shot Pamela Phillips and Dansereau with a .22 caliber firearm.
Court documents also state that Martin allegedly set fire to Mrs. Phillips’ car while she and Dansereau were inside and attempted to set fire to the Phillips’ home with Mr. Phillips’ body inside.
Martin is currently charged with three counts of murder, two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree arson and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Martin is being held at the Christian County Jail on a $3 million bond.
In other court news, a trial date was scheduled Wednesday morning in the case of retired Hopkinsville Police Officer Jefferson Alexander in Atkins’ court.
Special Prosecutor Jim Lesousky shared that there has not yet been any news regarding the dismissal motion submitted to the Court of Appeals by Alexander’s defense attorney Eric Eaton.
Lesousky suggested setting a trial date while the court awaits a decision on that motion.
“If the Court of Appeals grants Eaton’s motion, then obviously, that matter will be dealt with with that ruling,” Lesousky said. “If it’s ruled against him then we can move forward with our trial. I’m just trying to avoid unnecessary two or three months passage of time before we get a final rule from the Court of Appeals.”
Eaton didn’t oppose Lesousky’s request, but requested that Atkins schedule it to give the Court of Appeals enough time to give its ruling and prevent the court from having to reschedule a trial because it was set too soon.
Atkins agreed to both requests and scheduled the trial to take place Nov. 1-4.
Alexander is currently charged with first-degree perjury.
According to New Era archives, a Christian County grand jury indicted Alexander, a Hopkinsville Police Department officer, for first-degree perjury last February following an FBI investigation of a 2012 case of the Commonwealth v. former city councilwoman Ann Cherry.
According to the 2019 grand jury report, Pryor questioned Alexander as a witness before the grand jury in 2012, and while sworn under oath, Alexander allegedly provided false or misleading testimony, which is a Class D felony.
What Alexander allegedly lied about is not provided in the grand jury report.
Special FBI agent Sean Miller told the grand jury in 2019 that he approached Pryor in 2017 about Alexander’s alleged false testimony, but Pryor wouldn’t go forward with the case. Miller said Pryor told him the statute of limitations to charge Alexander had passed, but it had not.