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Judge Sets Trial Date, Change Of Venue Hearing For Alleged MCHS Shooter

Dave Thompson/ Pool Photo
Accused Marshall County High School shooter Gabe Parker (left) talks with defense attorney Tom Griffiths at a status hearing in Marshall County Circuit Court Friday, March 8.

A trial date and a hearing on whether to change the trial’s venue have been set for the alleged Marshall County High School shooter, after a status hearing Friday.Judge Jamie Jameson set Gabe Parker’s trial date for June 1, 2020. Parker is being charged with two counts of murder and several counts of first-degree assault after he allegedly opened fire on his classmates in January 2018.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Foust said he would prefer a trial date set for late 2019 or early 2020, but said June would be the most practical. He said this date allows time to work out a change of venue - a motion that Parker’s attorney plans to file in the upcoming weeks.

Foust said the discovery process is nearly complete, with the exception of a few summaries of reports from law enforcement and video evidence.

Foust said getting to trial has been slow because of the nature of the case.“When you look at all that has happened - the number of victims, for example - the fact that it started out in juvenile court, there are things that do tend to prolong a case like this.”

Foust said he asks for the community’s patience.“Unfortunately, sometimes justice does move slowly. But, the system, eventually- it works. We’re working diligently to bring this matter to a close as quickly as we possibly can.”

Marshall County Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Foust (right) and Parker's attorney Tom Griffiths (left) speak to Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson at a status hearing for accused Marshall County High School shooter Gabe Parker ( far left).

Jameson set the hearing date for May 17 to possibly move the trial’s venue elsewhere.

Parker’s attorney Tom Griffiths said he believes it’s not fair to Parker or the community to hold the trial in Marshall County. “I think it would be impossible in this community where this happened, for everyone to set aside what they know and what they went through in order to sit on a trial like this,” he said.  

Griffiths said he hopes the venue will be moved to a different part of west Kentucky, or central Kentucky, where there has been less news coverage of the event. He said he wants a venue that will be out of the local media market, but not so far away that it’s difficult to get to for everyone who has to travel to the trial.

Griffiths said he plans to file the motion for a change of venue in the next two to three weeks. He said he wants to take the extra time because this kind of motion is one of the “most technical in criminal law,” adding that a single procedural flaw could mean an automatic failure of the motion.

He also said the jury pool for the trial might be larger than normal because of how long the trial is expected to last. Jameson said during the hearing that the trial could last up to 20 days and Griffiths told reporters he expects it could last up to 30 days. Griffiths said it’s difficult to get a jury for a long trial because most people cannot be away from their jobs for that amount of time.

Foust filed a notice at the beginning of March that said the Commonwealth intends to seek a life sentence for Parker without the possibility of parole until he has served a minimum of 25 years. Griffiths said he considers this a “routine filing,” as it asks the jury to consider the full range of penalty.

Foust said even though the trial date is set for 2020, he expects status hearings to keep happening about once every 90 days “to make sure everybody’s on track.”

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