The ability to pick an impartial jury in Clark County for Patrick Watkins may not be an issue after all. Watkins is facing a second trial for allegedly killing his daughter in 2007.
The defense and prosecutors said Thursday they have agreed to pursue felony mediation in the case, and possibly avoid a trial.
Attorneys have the option to pursue mediation before a senior status judge in felony cases, if the attorneys all agree. All parties, including the defendant and the victims, have the opportunity to speak before the mediator, who then comes up with a resolution for the case. The agreement would then go back to the original judge for final adoption.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Charles Johnson said the session has been scheduled for June 12, though the senior status judge to hear the case has not been appointed. Clark Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue scheduled a conference on June 14 for further action in the case.
Watkins’ attorneys have been pushing for the retrial to be moved out of Clark County due to publicity surrounding the case, including after the original trial in September 2008. Watkins and his wife Joy Watkins were both convicted of murder for the 2007 death of his daughter Michaela from multiple injuries, including head injuries, a crushed chest and scalding burns to the backs of her legs.
Both were sentenced to life in prison, but the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned Patrick Watkins’ conviction in April 2011 after the trial judge would not allow Watkins or his attorneys cross examine about 17 incriminating statements made by Joy Watkins about her husband. The statements were admitted into evidence in the trial. Joy Watkins’ conviction and sentence were not affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Felony mediation has been used in two other Clark County cases involving fatalities. Both instances resulted in guilty pleas without the cases going to trial.
Thursday, Logue said she did not have enough information to rule on the motion to move the trial to another county. She acknowledged there was significant media attention around the original trial, but there has been little coverage recently. She said attorneys could revisit the issue later, depending on the outcome of the mediation session.
Contact Fred Petke at firstname.lastname@example.org.