RENDERED: OCTOBER 24, 2013
ON APPEAL FROM KENTON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE GREGORY M. BARTLETT, JUDGE NO. 09-CR-00188-004
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Ryan James Reed Law Office of Ryan J. Reed, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Jack Conway Attorney General Christian Kenneth Ray Miller Assistant Attorney General
In January of 2009, Appellant, Samantha Mayse, used a single's telephone chat line to lure Shawn Davis to a residence under the guise of a sexual encounter. What unfolded, however, was far from an erotic rendezvous. Mayse, along with Mary Hartbarger and Marion "Timmy" Parker, intended to rob Davis. The illicit scheme came to fruition when Davis arrived at the apartment and Mayse and her confederates attacked Davis in the upstairs bedroom. A fierce melee ensued. Fearing for his life and naked, Davis unsuccessfully attempted to jump out of a window to escape his aggressors. There was evidence that Mayse helped to restrain Davis and that she also struck him. Patrick Cooke then entered the scene and held Davis down while Parker beat him. Parker took a porcelain toilet tank lid that had been hidden in the closet and beat Davis in the head with such severity that the lid shattered. Offering no reprieve, Parker then bound Davis's hands with cable and strangled him to death. Sometime during the assault, Parker removed twenty dollars from Davis's wallet.
After wrapping Davis's body in a plastic shower curtain, Cooke and Parker carried the body outside and placed it in a large trash can which they then positioned into the bed of the victim's truck. Hartbarger held the hallway door open so that the children who were also living in the apartment would not witness the grizzly deed. Parker, Cooke, and Hartbarger then drove to an isolated location in a neighboring county. There, underneath a bridge and surrounded by winter's frigid embrace, Parker set fire to the victim's body.
Mayse was charged with one count of complicity to murder and one count of first-degree complicity to robbery. A Kenton Circuit Court jury found Mayse guilty on both counts and recommended a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a minimum of twenty-five years on the murder count and twenty years on the robbery count. The two sentences were recommended to run concurrently. On December 7, 2011, Mayse was sentenced in accordance with the jury's recommendation.
Mayse now appeals her conviction and sentence as a matter of right pursuant to the Ky. Constitution § 110(2)(b). Several issues are raised and addressed as follows.
The Use of Guilty Pleas as Substantive Evidence
Mayse argues that the trial court erred by denying her motions for mistrial after the Commonwealth repeatedly referenced two of the three co-indictees' guilty pleas in the presence of the jury. Mayse presented multiple motions for mistrial based upon this premise and each will be discussed individually. The trial court's denial of a motion for mistrial is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Bray v. Commonwealth, 68 S.W.3d 375, 383 (Ky. 2002).
First Mistrial Motion
The Commonwealth's Attorney began to question the jury during voir dire by stating: "At least two people in this case . . . that I anticipate will testify have pled guilty to . . . ." Mayse's counsel immediately objected, thereby abruptly cutting off the Commonwealth's Attorney before he could complete his sentence. Mayse then moved for a mistrial, arguing that the Commonwealth was attempting to prejudice her by bolstering the credibility of the anticipated witnesses'. The Commonwealth's Attorney responded that he had not yet posed the question, but in any event, the purpose was to determine whether any of the potential jurors would be prejudiced against such testimony. The trial court reserved ruling on the motion until it had completed more research. The Commonwealth then proceeded with this line of questioning, while specifically omitting the mention of the terms "plea" or "pled" when referring to the anticipated future testimony of Mayse's co-indictees.
Upon conclusion of voir dire, the parties again argued the issue, resulting in an oral ruling by the trial court denying the motion. The court acknowledged precedent barring the Commonwealth from using the co-defendants' guilty pleas for improper purposes in its case-in-chief, noting that the disputed statement at issue here occurred during voir dire. The court ...