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By Calen McKinney
Landmark News Service
The Campbellsville woman accused of killing her husband with an overdose of liquid morphine has asked that her murder trial be moved out of Taylor County because of pre-trial publicity.
If her request isn’t approved, the woman says she believes her right to a fair trial will be jeopardized.
Kathleen Wise, 61, of 4203 Bengal Road, was indicted in July 2011 by a Taylor County grand jury and charged with the first-degree murder of her husband, Joseph. If convicted, she faces as much as life in prison.
She has formally pleaded not guilty to the crime, and the prosecution has said it will not seek the death penalty.
According to court records, Wise allegedly admitted that she added liquid morphine to her husband’s drinking water June 7, 2011.
Wise’s attorney, William Butler of Louisville, has said that Wise denies killing her husband. According to court records, however, Wise confessed to being involved with her husband’s death.
On June 29, Butler filed a request to move Wise’s trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday, July 30, in Taylor Circuit Court before Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly at the Taylor County Judicial Center.
In order for such a request to be granted, Butler states in the motion, a defendant must prove that there has been prejudicial news coverage of the alleged crime before a trial and the coverage could reasonably prevent a fair trial.
“In this case, the defendant was a nurse at a well known nursing home in the community,” Butler wrote. “Pretrial publicity in the Central Kentucky News-Journal and WKYT television news has been substantial.”
An Internet search for Wise’s name revealed news stories about her pending criminal case on many media outlets, including WHAS 11, WKYT, www.topix.com, www.campbellsville.com, www.cknj.com and others.
On Friday, Butler said he believes his motion speaks for itself and that pretrial publicity could cause Wise to not have a fair trial.
Tim Cocanougher, the prosecutor in the case, said he believes Wise could receive a fair trial in Taylor County, despite the news coverage of her alleged crime.
“I do understand why the motion was made because of the seriousness of the charge and the possibility that potential jurors could be influenced by media exposure this case has generated,” he stated in an emailed response.
“However, the jury selection process is designed to filter out any potential jurors who may have already formed an opinion based on past media exposure. I believe we can seat a 12-person jury in Taylor County who have not formed an opinion in this case and who will listen to the evidence as presented at trial and make its decision based only on that evidence and that evidence alone.”
Cocanougher said he doesn’t believe the request for a new venue will delay Wise’s trail. If granted, he said, the trial will likely take place in one of the other counties in the 11th Judicial District, which includes Taylor, Washington, Green and Marion counties.
“If granted, the Commonwealth will be ready to try the case on July 30,” he said.
Wise was first scheduled to face a jury of her peers in May. However, her trial was rescheduled after a witness wasn’t available to testify.
Kelly is expected to consider Wise’s request during criminal court proceedings this week.
Wise is a former registered nurse and Medco nursing home employee. The allegations against her stem from a toxicology investigation into her husband’s death.
Joseph Wise died June 8, 2011, from a supposed heart attack. However, routine toxicology tests revealed that he had consumed a fatal dose of morphine.
Taylor County Coroner Terry Dabney turned the reports over to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office for investigation.
Court records state that the toxicology report found 5,738 ng/ml of morphine in Joseph Wise’s blood and 1,359 ng/ml in his urine. The normal therapeutic ranges, according to court records, are from 10 to 80 ng/ml. His body was exhumed for further testing.
Wise’s bond was set at $50,000 cash, and if released, she was ordered to have no contact with any of her husband’s family members. She is being housed at the Taylor County Detention Center.
Butler has said Wise’s trial could take two to three days.