LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - An attorney representing a woman convicted in a high-profile murder in 1986 argued before the Supreme Court that she should get a new trial because she got bad advice from her former attorney.
Karen Brown is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years for her role in a notorious love triangle murder case in Lexington.
Brown, her lesbian girlfriend, Elizabeth Turpin and their friend, Keith Bouchard, were accused of the February 1996 murder of 22-year-old Michael Turpin. Prosecutors said the three plotted Michael Turpin's death for six months to collect $60,000 in insurance money.
Brown and Elizabeth Turpin, who was married to Michael Turpin, were convicted of murder. Bouchard pleaded guilty and testified against the women.
Public defender Marguerite Neil Thomas noted in appeal briefs that Brown's former attorney, Julius Rather of Lexington, did not call a single witness, while Elizabeth Turpin's attorney called 17. He did not question Bouchard's credibility despite evidence of mental illness.
An attorney for the state said Rather probably saved Brown's life by not putting her on the stand. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Brown and Elizabeth Turpin.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Ferguson said Wednesday that Rather successfully suppressed part of Brown's confession to police, which would have become admissible for impeachment purposes had she testified.
Michael Turpin's father, Don, said it's the second time Brown's conviction has been before the Supreme Court.
"It's just a continual replay," Don Turpin said. "In the 20 years, they have never brought up a new argument that they didn't make before. It frustrates you and infuriates you that you have to keep going through this."
In 2003, Brown asked Fayette Circuit Judge Gary Payne for a new trial. She said she had no knowledge of the murder plot and thought only that Bouchard would "rough up" Michael Turpin.
Brown said her confession was a lie she made to protect Elizabeth Turpin.
Payne granted a new trial, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals later overruled him. The Supreme Court agreed to consider the case on discretionary review.
The justices seemed skeptical of Brown's story. Justice Mary Noble said "it's a no-brainer" that Brown could come up with a better story after 17 years to reflect on it.
Rather has said that he had a weak case and that he wanted to avoid the death penalty. He has said that he did not question Bouchard's mental stability because he feared that might convince jurors that Brown was the ringleader. And he did not want jurors to hear Brown's confession.
In death penalty cases, "you try not to give them (prosecutors) any peg to hang their hat on," Rather said.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)