Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Judge to determine if prosecution can try Craven case

Attorney had contact with defense team

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — By the end of the week, a judge is expected to decide whether the office of new Kenton Commonwealth Attorney Bill Crockett should be removed from a third death penalty case because of the hiring of a former defense attorney.

        Michael Folk, a former public defender, is now an assistant commonwealth attorney.

        At issue is the extent of Mr. Folk's involvement as a public defender, and his dealings with other public defenders, in the Stephen Craven murder case.

        The Kentucky attorney general already has appointed special prosecutors in two other Kenton County capital cases.

        After a hearing Tuesday, Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe said that she will rule by the end of the week whether a conflict of interest exists. She also is expected to set a trial date then.

        Mr. Craven, 38, a Delta Airlines pilot, was found beaten and shot in the basement of his Edgewood home on July 12. His wife, Adele; her reputed lover, Rusty McIntire of Erlanger; and Ronald Pryor of Independence, who is accused of pulling the trigger, all have been charged in Mr. Craven's death.

        The three suspects appeared in court Tuesday, but did not speak to one another or testify.

        Before issuing her ruling, Judge Summe wants to listen to an audio tape of Mr. McIntire's initial court appearance last summer. Mr. Folk, then a public defender, told Judge Summe that he was assigned to represent Mr. McIntire at his video arraignment.

        Because the video machine was not working that day, Mr. Crockett told Judge Summe on Tuesday that he had obtained an official audiotape of that day's arraignments for her review.

        Judge Summe asked why Mr. Folk's name also was listed on the court calendar last summer as representing Mr. Pryor at his initial appearance.

        Rebecca Lytle, who is representing Mr. Pryor, told Judge Summe Tuesday that her client “has no recollection of any contact with Mr. Folk.”

        Long-time Commonwealth Attorney Don Buring, who lost a bitterly contested race to Mr. Crockett in November, sent a letter to Judge Summe last year highlighting a potential conflict.

        The letter described a conversation that Ms. Lytle, a staff attorney with the capital trial branch in Frankfort, had with Mr. Folk about the Craven case.

        Mr. Folk told Judge Summe that he talked with Ms. Lytle for 20 to 30 minutes about the press coverage of the case, local court procedures and the trial tactics of Mr. Buring — who Mr. Folk then thought would be handling the case. Mr. Folk said he exchanged pleasantries with Ms. Lytle on two other occasions, and may have spoken briefly with two other public defenders about the case.

        In the two cases for which special prosecutors were appointed, Jeffrey Gabbard has pleaded guilty to robbery and murder charges in the death of a Fort Thomas teen-ager. Mr. Folk once represented Mr. Gabbard, so Mr. Crockett asked the state attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor.

        Also referred to the state attorney general's office was the case of Fred Furnish, a death row inmate who is charged with killing a Covington woman. Mr. Folk represented Mr. Furnish in his first trial.

        Mr. Crockett estimated Tuesday that “less than 20 of 600 pending cases” were referred to the state attorney general's office because of a possible conflict of interest.

        Mr. Crockett said he wanted to hire the best attorneys he could for the commonwealth attorney's office, and he added that conflicts of interest normally occur throughout the state, when administrations change.


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