Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kentucky Court of Appeals Rules 2-1 that Inmate Awaiting Trial on Triple Murder Charges May Visit Children

In an unpublished opinion, the Kentucky Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling restored child-visitation rights to a Lexington, Kentucky man in prison for offering to kill a man and awaiting trial on triple murder charges. It said that the trial judge made several procedural errors when he denied the inmate visitation to his three children, ages 9, 12 and 14.

The court said that the trial judge had improperly placed the burden of showing harm to the children on the inmate noncustodial parent, contrary to Kentucky law. It observed that “his status as an inmate in a penal institution alone does not make visitation with his child inappropriate.”  It also said that there was “not a finding in the record that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health, and there is no evidence in the record to support such a finding.”  Other errors committed by the trial judge included the use of letters and affidavits without placing them into evidence or allowing the inmate an opportunity to cross examine the authors. The Appeals’ court then ordered that the inmate be granted visitation.  The dissent would have remanded the case for trial because “the possibility exists that it could be properly shown by clear and convincing evidence that visitation with the appellant in the prison setting, given his history of violence, brutality and lawlessness, could seriously endanger the mental, moral or emotional health of these children.” News Source.  Brandon Ortiz, Herald-Leader, Kentucky.com. For the complete news story, please click here (last visited May 10, 2006, reo).  A copy of the unpublished slip opinion, Meese v. Meade, can be obtained in PDF format by clicking here (last visited May 10, 2006, reo). A copy of the opinion may be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here.pdf

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