A special judge is considering whether to postpone the April 16 trial of a Williamsburg woman, who allegedly killed her husband and her two teenager daughters while they slept in January.
Courtney Taylor, 41, is charged with three counts of capital murder in the Jan. 13 shooting deaths of Larry Taylor, 56, Jesse Taylor, 18, and Jolee Taylor, 13. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in her case.
During a pretrial conference last Wednesday morning, Taylor’s new attorney, Teresa Whitaker, informed Judge Jeffery Burdette that she has other cases already set for trial in April and two set for trial in late March.
“There is no way I can do an adequate job and be prepared for that,” Whitaker said about the April trial date.
Burdette noted that some of Whitaker’s other cases might get settled between now and the April trial date.
“I hate to make a decision on the trial date today,” Burdette noted.
Whitaker said that bar association guidelines state she has to be prepared for trial.
“The government is trying to kill her,” Whitaker said about her client.
Whitaker only recently took over as one of Taylor’s attorneys after one of her prior attorneys, Roger Gibbs, retired from the Department of Public Advocacy.
Whitaker said she talked with other lawyers at the public advocate’s office about representing Taylor before deciding to take the case herself, because none of the other lawyers were qualified to handle a death penalty case or had an opening in their calendar to represent Taylor.
Burdette noted that he is considering postponing the trial, but only for a month or two.
Whitaker said that she anticipates the trial would take about three weeks to complete.
Burdette directed attorneys for both sides to sit down with the court clerk and come up with an alternate three-week window in May when the case could be tried, but he noted the goal would be trying the case in two weeks.
Burdette set another pretrial conference in the case for Dec. 13, and noted that he is trying to accommodate Whitaker’s schedule and ensure that there is a fair trial for both Taylor and the public.
Burdette said that he at least wanted to have an alternative trial date “penciled in” prior to the December hearing.
Burdette noted that he planned to call at least 300 – 350 perspective jurors for the trial.
Also during last Wednesday’s hearing, Burdette inquired as to whether any evaluations had been done, and Whitaker responded that from what she can tell there haven’t been any.
It is not uncommon prior to homicide trials for psychological evaluations to be done on defendants to determine their competency to stand trial.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble noted that he is anticipating the defense asking for an evaluation, and requested that it be done no later than two or three months prior to trial.
Whitaker noted that the rules allow for her to file for such an evaluation within 90 days of the trial.
In addition, during the hearing, Trimble noted that Kentucky State Police used as relatively new photography system to photograph the crime scene.
The LEICA system takes photos from any direction of the crime scene as it looks down on it, Trimble said adding that he plans to use the photos extensively during the trial.
Trimble said that the system is very complicated and offered to have a KSP detective set up a demonstration at his office that the defense lawyers could attend in order to explain how the system worked.
Burdette agreed this would be a good idea and instructed Trimble to organize such an effort. Afterwards, Burdette noted the defense could decide whether it wanted to object to the use of the new system.
Trimble noted that police had 49 items of physical evidence that were recovered, and said that the KSP crime laboratory informed him all testing would be completed no later than two months prior to the April 16 trial date.
Trimble said that defense attorneys were welcomed to have defense experts observe the testing if they so desired.
Taylor is also charged in a separate indictment with two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for pointing a 9mm handgun at Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonas Saunders and Sgt. James Fox, who responded to her residence to investigate the shooting.
Saunders shot her twice with his service weapon when she allegedly pointed a gun at him. Courtney Taylor was in the hospital for about two weeks before being released and taken to the Whitley County Detention Center.
She was later transferred to the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women at Pee Wee Valley, which is a women’s prison with a hospital unit.
Taylor was transferred back to the Whitley County Detention Center on Sept. 29 where she remains incarcerated in lieu of a $1 million bond.