Blood sample leads to reversal in murder case

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Supreme Court has struck down the 24-year sentence of a Jessamine County woman who pleaded guilty to four counts of wanton murder after a drunken-driving crash in 2006.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said in a ruling Thursday that sheriff deputies improperly took a blood sample from Melissa Helton without her consent and without a warrant while she was unconscious in a Lexington hospital.

Minton, writing for a divided Supreme Court, said records in the case reflect no evidence to show investigators had probable cause to believe that Helton was driving drunk. Minton said that led to the finding that Helton's constitutional rights had been violated.

The Supreme Court ordered the trial judge to conduct a hearing to determine whether evidence exists showing investigators had reasonable grounds to take the sample.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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