Clemons' trial pushed back to December

September 21, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - The trial of a Lexington man charged in the murder of a Louisville woman whose charred remains were found on a Garrard County farm last summer will not start until Dec. 8, much to the chagrin of the defendant.

James T. Clemons appeared before Circuit Judge Hunter Daugherty Friday afternoon for a status hearing. Clemons, 34, is accused of murder in the death of Rhonda Michelle Brown, whose body was found Oct. 9 on Fall Lick Road by the property owner. Brown had been reported missing, according to the Garrard County coroner's office, and her body was so badly burned that she had to be identified through dental records. Clemons is also charged with tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.

The trial had been scheduled to start Aug. 25, but that date was canceled because the attorneys were not ready, according to Circuit Clerk Jennifer Grubbs.


Clemons appeared in court wearing an orange jump suit with shackles and was handcuffed to a wide leather belt around his waist. His attorney, Susanne McCullough, asked Judge Daugherty to set a trial date in October, based on what is required for a "speedy trial."

However, Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Lockridge asked for the trial to be pushed back to December because he is still waiting on evidence that had been sent for testing. "The evidence was sent off in August, and they promised a 45-day turnaround," Lockridge told Judge Daugherty.

Lockridge said he doesn't expect to get the evidence back until October and that both he and the defense attorney would need some reaction time. "We also have witnesses from out of state that will have to come in," he said. "Early December will be in compliance with a speedy trial."

But McCullough disagreed, saying that she thought she had asked for a trial within six months during a previous hearing. Clemons was arrested on Oct. 23, 2002, and has been in jail on a $5 million bond. McCullough asked Judge Daugherty to review Clemons' bond.

Judge Daugherty asked how long the trial will last. Lockridge said he thinks it will take about three days. McCullough concurred. "We have a lot of evidence," she said.

Daugherty set the trial to begin Dec. 8. That's when Clemons spoke up himself. "I thought this was set for a speedy trial?" he questioned Daugherty.

"This is as fast and speedy and I can do it," Daugherty replied.

"I've been incarcerated for 11 months, and I have a $5 million bond. And I don't have a right to a speedy trial?" Clemons asked.

Clemons shook his head as he left the front of the courtroom and angrily mumbled a few expletives as he took his seat with the other prisoners from the Lincoln County Regional Jail sitting in the back of the courtroom.

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