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Convicted killer's death sentence reversed

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By The Staff

An opinion Thursday by Kentucky's Supreme Court reverses the 2005 death sentence of three-time convicted killer Michael St. Clair - a man blamed for at least four murders, including the 1990 execution of Marion County native Frank Brady, which occurred near Lebanon Junction, after he was kidnapped from a Sonora truck stop.

According to Thursday's reversal, "the (Bullitt County) trial court's directive to follow the statutory language in instructing the jury on the applicable aggravator required to support a death sentence."

That failure by the court to comply with the Supreme Court's instructions thus "deprived the defendant of his right to a unanimous verdict."

This is the second time an appellate court has reversed the Bullitt County death sentence.

The state Supreme Court in 2004 ordered St. Clair be resentenced in Bullitt County for Brady's murder there, and retried in Hardin County for the kidnapping of Brady.

That reversal of the verdict and sentence stemmed from mistakes the Supreme Court found during the first trials of St. Clair and Dennis Reese in Hardin and Bullitt Counties.

Among the mistakes noted was prosecutors' forcing St. Clair's wife to testify against him, which is forbidden by Kentucky law.

It was during the 2005 resentencing in Bullitt County when, per Supreme Court Justices, Bullitt County Circuit Court Judge Tom Waller - retired - failed to give jurors proper instructions about aggravators that permit a death sentence.

Those instructions had been specifically ordered by the Supreme Court.

Thursday's reversal makes apparent why prosecutors were unwilling to dismiss the kidnapping case against St. Clair in Hardin County until his appeal of the Bullitt death penalty had been ruled upon.

Prosecutors still are seeking a death penalty for Brady's kidnapping in Hardin County. 

An attempt to retry St. Clair for Brady's kidnapping last year ended after opening statements by prosecutors included information about a murder in New Mexico that neither St. Clair, nor Reese have been convicted of.

The Attorney General's office, after last year's mistrial in Hardin County, announced it would await setting another trial in Hardin County until St. Clair's appeal of the Bullitt County death sentence was ruled upon.

While officially in a holding pattern in Hardin County, preliminary proceedings for a third trial of St. Clair in Hardin County began in March.

A new judge is on the case and no trial date has been set.

No date has been set for a second resentencing in Bullitt County, either.

"This puts the case in the same posture that it was in 2005, when the sentence had been reversed," said Steve Mirkin, St. Clair's attorney during his first trials in Hardin and Bullitt counties. "Prosecutors are back to square one."

As prosecutors continue efforts to prosecute and sentence, and retry and resentence St. Clair for crimes occurring two decades ago, the killer continues to serve two life-without-parole sentences for a set of murders committed in Oklahoma.

St. Clair, in numerous letters to the media, mocks Kentucky's efforts to convict and sentence him.

"My death will only be at the hands of mother nature ... Even a blind man or woman could see that ..." St. Clair wrote in an April 12 letter to The News-Enterprise. "A death sentence, or sentences, for me... is nothing - not worth one red cent (since) it will never be carried out."

Brady's wife, Merle, has endured two decades of trial proceedings, but said she's not lost faith in prosecutors Dana Todd and Todd Lewis, nor the Kentucky Attorney General's Office.

"We should go back to Bullitt County and go through the sentencing phase again," she said. "I am ready and willing to go through another trial in Hardin County and another sentencing phase in Bullitt County."