The Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned a Clark County man’s murder conviction and life sentence Friday after ruling that his attorney at the time of his arrest was ineffective.
Christopher McGorman Jr., 27, will now have a new trial in Madison County, where the trial was moved following a motion from his trial attorney. McGorman, who was 14 at the time, was tried and convicted of killing his 14-year-old classmate Larry Raney on Jan. 29, 2000. McGorman was tried as an adult for murder, first-degree burglary and defacing a firearm.
According to the opinion, attorney Alex Rowady was appointed to represent McGorman shortly after Raney’s death. Rowady allowed McGorman to be interviewed by police and encouraged him to confess prior to being evaluated by mental health professionals or speaking with prosecutors about the statement.
McGorman argued that Rowady had an obligation to investigate before offering any advice. The opinion says Rowady intended to prove that another teen was responsible for the plan and thought a statement to police would support that and mitigate consequences.
The ruling said another attorney represented McGorman at trial.
Several doctors examined McGorman and determined he was mentally ill at the time of his confession.
The justices determined that McGorman’s Sixth Amendment rights guaranteeing the effective assistance of counsel were not met.
“In this case, it does not seem ‘reasonable’ trial strategy to allow a juvenile to be interviewed by the police and confess when defense counsel has not had the juvenile evaluated by a mental health professional nor spoken to a prosecutor about the effect of the statement,” the justices wrote.
“McGorman’s trial was tainted by his interrogation from the very beginning. Mental health professionals testified that McGorman was suffering from mental illness at the time of the murder and during the police interrogation. His counsel’s failure to conduct an investigation, have him evaluated and talk to a prosecutor prior to his surrender to the police for an interrogation clearly affected his ability to receive a fair trial.”
In 2003, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, overruling McGorman’s complaint that the videotaped confession should not have been admitted as evidence because his parents were not present.
McGorman asserted in other court filings that his confession was coerced, but that was not addressed in the Court of Appeals ruling.
McGorman will now face a new trial in Madison County.
Raney was a soccer player and FFA member. His body was found in a cornfield after McGorman contacted another classmate for help burying the body.
McGorman has been incarcerated in the state prison in Eddyville since his sentencing in 2001.
Contact Fred Petke at email@example.com.