Sunday, January 12, 2003

Craven retrial date sought

Where to resume murder case is in question

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - One of Kentucky's longest-running murder cases returns to court this week to try to find a home.

A judge has scheduled a Monday morning hearing to set a date and possible location to retry Adele Craven on a complicity-to-murder charge in connection with the July 2000 bludgeoning and shooting death of her husband.

But finding a courtroom and a public defender to take the case on may not be easy.

The first trial in the case was moved to Lexington because of pretrial publicity and lasted six weeks, only to end in early December with a hung jury. Eight jurors wanted to acquit, three wanted to convict and one was undecided, but leaning toward acquittal.

Criminal defense attorney Deanna Dennison, co-counsel for Ms. Craven, said last week that she will ask the judge to lower her client's bond.

Ms. Craven, 39, of Edgewood has been in custody on no bond since July 21, 2000, nine days after her husband's death.

Stephen Craven, 38, of Edgewood was home on vacation from his job as a pilot for Delta Air Lines when he was found beaten and shot to death in the basement of his home.

The reputed triggerman in the case, Ronald Scott Pryor, 35, of Independence, was found guilty of murder on May 6. A Kenton County jury recommended death, but Kenton County Circuit Judge Patricia Summe has delayed formal sentencing until after Ms. Craven's trial. Judge Summe can follow the jury's recommendations or hand down a lesser penalty.

A third person charged in the case, Russell "Rusty" McIntire, agreed to testify against Ms. Craven in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. Ms. Craven does not deny she was having an affair with the 34-year-old Erlanger man who had been hired to remodel the Cravens' basement. But Ms. Craven said Mr. McIntire acted alone in hiring Mr. Pryor to kill Mr. Craven.

Because the first trial was moved 75 miles south to Lexington because of pretrial publicity, it is all but certain the case will not be retried in Covington.

Judge Summe could give some possibilities of what community might host a new trial, but that decision will probably not be finalized in time for Monday's hearing.

Lexington officials have indicated that with the recent appointment of a new Family Court judge, they might not have a spare courtroom to host the trial for a second time.

The first trial of Ms. Craven was the longest criminal trial in Fayette County for more than 20 years.

The length of time it has taken to get the case to trial has appeared at times to frustrate everyone involved.

Delays included assigning a new prosecutor to the case after a judge ruled there was a potential conflict of interest within the administration of the Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Bill Crockett.

Then, Judge Summe pushed back the trial date again after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, citing public sympathy for airline pilots.

Further delays could hamper trying the case for a second time if Ms. Dennison and her law partner, Linda A. Smith, withdraw from the case.

Ms. Dennison was Ms. Craven's private attorney until the homemaker was declared indigent by the courts. Ms. Dennison then agreed to take the case for no additional money if the state agreed to pay for expert witnesses, forensic testing requested by the defense and other expenses related to defending Ms. Craven.

Ms. Smith said the first trial was a financial drain on their small law firm in Covington. The two were unable to take any new cases for weeks as they prepared for the nearly two-month trial.

And Ms. Dennison said the emotional stress of retrying a death penalty case might be more than she is willing to endure.

If Ms. Dennison and Ms. Smith withdraw from the case, the public advocacy field office in Covington would normally be handed the case.

But that office, too, has a potential conflict of interest that will prevent it from taking the case. Its director, Mary Rafizadehv, attended the same church as the Cravens and knew the couple.

The public advocacy capital trial branch in Frankfort would also have to excuse itself if asked to take the Craven case. It has a conflict of interest because the office defended Mr. Pryor.

That would leave one of the other 21 public advocacy field offices scattered across the state to take the case.


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