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Commonwealth v. Padgett

Supreme Court of Kentucky

December 13, 2018



          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT/ CROSS APPELLEE: Andy Be shear, Attorney General of Kentucky, Thomas Allen Van De Rostyne, Assistant Attorney General.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE/CROSS APPELLANT: Emily Holt Rhorer, Assistant Public Advocate, Shannon Renee DuPree, Assistant Public Advocate.


          KELLER, JUSTICE.

         After a mistrial, Michael Padgett was tried and convicted by a Daviess County jury for Assault, third degree. At his second trial, he was also charged and convicted as a persistent felony offender (PFO) in the first degree. The jury recommended an enhanced sentence of ten years. The circuit court sentenced Padgett accordingly. On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals vacated his sentence, finding that the second trial violated Padgett's rights against double jeopardy. The Commonwealth moved this Court for discretionary review, which we granted. After careful review of the record and law, we now affirm the Court of Appeals.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 9, 2014, Padgett was housed at the Daviess County Detention Center (DCDC), in the B-pod. He was in a cell alone and covered the window to his cell, so that on-duty deputies could not see inside. He proceeded to kick the door, causing a loud disturbance. Deputies ordered Padgett to remove the obstruction in the window, but he refused. The officers entered Padgett's cell, handcuffed him, and removed him from the cell to place him in the "Emergency Restraint Chair" (ERC). The ERC is a chair used to restrain prisoners when they are potential dangers to themselves or others; it binds them to their chair at several points (waist, feet, arms) so that the prisoner is prohibited from moving and causing potential damage. Chad Payne, then Sergeant Payne, was the supervising officer on duty. He responded to the scene as Padgett was being removed to the ERC. During the melee, Padgett spit in Payne's face. Payne ordered another officer to tase Padgett and Padgett was then successfully restrained.

         The Commonwealth disclosed two reports to the defense regarding Payne: (1) a report of excessive force with another inmate and (2) a write-up and demotion for making false and unauthorized statements. Payne was demoted from Sergeant to Deputy as a result of the second report. The Commonwealth moved, prior to trial, to exclude "the materials" as irrelevant.

          The defense objected, arguing that the report of excessive force was relevant to Padgett's claim of self-defense and that both reports were admissible for impeachment purposes. On September 22, 2014, the court heard arguments on the motion. Relevantly, there was no written order from the court on this motion.[1] The hearing itself was an amalgamation of multiple pre-trial issues including jury instructions and the availability of self-protection as a defense to third-degree assault; intertwined within these arguments was reference to the evidence regarding Payne. The trial judge's order was not abundantly clear; however, at that time, the judge stated:

For impeachment purposes, that may be permitted but I'm just telling you, I don't see it right now. And all I can tell you is that on your motion, I can exclude it up to a point but during trial, depending upon what the testimony is, I very well might allow it. But I can't see it right now. I don't see me allowing that evidence in.

         It would seem that what "may be permitted" were the reports on Payne's disciplinary history. At the parties' questioning, the court continued:

Oh, it might [be relevant] if what he did was improper. I can't see it. I don't see it. But it might come off of the witness stand that somehow this was improper. I don't know. I don't hear-you haven't told me if- right now, I'm not going to admit that ... evidence as we sit here. You know. And I think there has to be something more ... But I don't want to preclude that. At trial, you never know what comes up half the time ...
I'll put it this way. If that evidence - that evidence, that information um will not be permitted at trial unless and the only thing that I think I can see as far as impeachment is somehow during the testimony of Sergeant Payne, maybe somebody else too, but at that point it becomes necessary - I can't see it. I - I don't see it. But I don't want to rule right now with finality, saying there's no - under no situation or circumstances it's not coming in -
Right. I'm saying that, unless there is something during the testimony or some evidence that somebody puts on that all of a sudden makes that significant and relevant, it's not going to be used at trial.

         In response to the court's statements, defense counsel attempted to clarify further:

Judge, if I may address that - I think that you're talking on the disciplinary report? The write-up? Okay. As to the demotion -which is a separate issue, um, I did want to mention that, of course, anytime there's instances of dishonesty that you cross-examine a witness on, usually it's about things that aren't necessarily directly connected but you can always question somebody about their veracity and truthfulness ...

         The parties then transitioned into discussion on self-protection as a defense to third-degree assault and self-defense in response to law enforcement.

         Padgett proceeded to trial over the next two days. On the morning of September 24, 2014, [2] the Commonwealth called Chad Payne to the witness stand. The direct examination proceeded without incident. The following exchange occurred during cross-examination, however:

DC[3]: So you were a supervising officer at the time of this incident?
CP[4]: [Nods]
DC: And at the time of this incident, what was your rank?
CP: Sergeant.
DC: Are you a sergeant now?
CP: No.
CW[5]: Approach, your Honor.
[At bench]
TJ[6]: What was the purpose of that?
DC: I was just inquiring about his rank. I'm not going any further.
TJ: You better not go any ...

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