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Marion County Judge-Executive takes the stand

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Judge recounts final days of his son's life

By Jennifer Hewlett

The Lexington Herald-Leader

Courtroom spectators sobbed as Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly Jr. described in Fayette Circuit Court on Monday the final 47 days of his 23-year-old son's life.

John Graves Mattingly III had been shot in the head after robbers invaded his home on Wilson Street in Lexington on May 25, 2006. He never regained consciousness and died July 10, 2006, Mattingly Jr. said.

Just after the shooting, a doctor told the father that he didn't think his son would survive, but then, miraculously, the younger Mattingly began wiggling his thumb at his doctor's command, he said.

"We went from no hope to hope," Mattingly Jr. said. "John had a spirit and a desire to live. ... He and God haggled for a long time."

But eventually pneumonia set in, and there were no more signs that the younger Mattingly was aware of his surroundings. The Mattingly family decided that his respirator should be turned off, the father said.

His son continued to hold on after the life support equipment was removed, until just after a nun came to visit him. She told him that before he went to heaven, he had to forgive those who had hurt him, the father said. Within an hour, John Graves Mattingly III, a University of Kentucky student who seemed to have had an interest in pursuing a career in law, was dead.

Mattingly Jr. was the second witness in the trial of Adrian Lamont Benton, 31, who is accused of murder in the younger Mattingly's death and other crimes.

Benton and Raymond Larry Wright, 29, both were charged with murder after Mattingly's death and were slated to be tried together. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for both. But Wright pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of complicity to commit robbery as the jury was being selected. Wright admitted he shot Mattingly. Prosecutors have recommended a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years for Wright. The surprise guilty plea from Wright meant the death penalty no longer was a sentencing option for Benton.

"It's up to you to tell us what justice is," defense attorney Casey Holland told jurors during his opening argument Monday. Holland said Mattingly's death was tragic and senseless.

"It was not an accident. It was not a fluke," he said. But, he said that Benton did not fire the shot at Mattingly, that Wright did.

Holland said Benton, the youngest in a family of four children, had speech and language impairments since childhood. Benton, whom family and friends called "Poodie," was placed in special education classes and never progressed academically beyond the third grade, he said.

"Poodie is mentally retarded," Holland said.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Bryant, in his opening argument, told jurors that just before the shooting on Wilson Street, police were investigating a shooting on Gerald Drive in which Benton had fired a pistol at another man and fled.

Brionna Johnson, the first witness to testify Monday, said Benton shot at Le'Mon Allen in the living room of her home on Gerald Drive. Benton had asked Allen for a quarter and Allen had balked at the request, according to Johnson. The bullet went through Allen's pants, she said.