FROM FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE PAMELA R. GOODWINE,
JUDGE ACTION NO. 16-CR-00369
FOR APPELLANT: Emily Holt Rhorer Assistant Public Advocate
FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky James
Havey Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky
BEFORE: COMBS, D. LAMBERT AND SMALLWOOD,  JUDGES.
William Taylor appeals from a judgment of the Fayette Circuit
Court convicting him of reckless homicide following a jury
trial and sentencing him to five-years' imprisonment.
After our review, we affirm.
fist-fight outside a gentlemen's club in Lexington,
Taylor shot and killed his friend, Laroz Mitchell, in the
early morning hours of February 19, 2016. Taylor ran from the
scene, disposing of the handgun as he fled. Romaine Lewis,
who had driven Taylor and Mitchell to the club, put Mitchell
into his vehicle and drove him to the hospital. Mitchell died
shortly later. Meanwhile, Taylor hid out in Louisville.
warrant was issued for Taylor's arrest on February 23,
2016. Taylor turned himself in to a deputy from the
sheriff's department the following day. Police
detectives, Reid Bowles and William Brislin, interviewed
Taylor and recorded his statement. Initially, Taylor denied
shooting Mitchell. He explained that Mitchell had confronted
him about a woman inside the club and that they had scuffled
outside. Taylor said that he laughed at Mitchell because he
had fallen to the ground while swinging at Taylor.
Eventually, however, Taylor confessed to the detectives that
Mitchell had landed three hard punches to his face.
explained that when he grabbed Mitchell's shirt, a gun
fell from Mitchell's waistband. Taylor said that he
picked up the gun and shot at the ground when Mitchell came
at him. He explained: "I didn't mean to pull the
trigger f***** again, man. I didn't. I didn't mean to
pull that f****** trigger again. I, I was just drunk and I
was mad and he just, he, like, he was comin back at me, fam,
and like, what the f*** am I supposed to do, fam?"
Taylor also indicated that the manner in which he raised the
handgun had caused the trigger to just go off. On April 19,
2016, Taylor was indicted and charged with murder for the
shooting death of Mitchell. At arraignment, he entered a plea
of "not guilty."
August 24, 2016, Taylor filed a motion to dismiss the
indictment, claiming that he was immune from prosecution
under the provisions of KRS503.085(1), which provide immunity
to persons who use force in self-defense or in defense of
others -- unless there is probable cause to believe that the
use of force was unlawful. Taylor argued that the facts and
circumstances of the case did not establish probable cause to
believe that he acted unlawfully in defending himself.
Following a hearing, the trial court disagreed and denied the
trial began on March 6, 2017, and lasted three days. At
trial, Taylor declined to testify. His defense was based upon
principles of self-protection and was presented through
cross-examination of the Commonwealth's witnesses, his
recorded statement to police detectives, and counsel's
arguments to the jury. After the presentation of evidence,
the jury was instructed on all degrees of homicide as well as
on self-protection. After closing arguments, the jury found
Taylor guilty of reckless homicide. A judgment of conviction
was entered on April 26, 2017. This appeal followed.
appeal, Taylor presents three arguments. First, he argues
that he was entitled to a mistrial (or at least an
admonition) based upon an improper argument made by the
Commonwealth during its summation. Next, Taylor argues that
he was entitled to a directed verdict because the
Commonwealth failed to prove that he was not acting in
self-defense. Finally, Taylor argues that the trial court
erred by denying his motion for immunity pursuant to the
provisions of KRS 503.085. We address the arguments in
claim of immunity is raised under the provisions of KRS
503.085, the prosecution may proceed only if the trial court
believes that "there is probable cause to conclude that
the force used was not legally justified" under the
controlling provisions of KRS Chapter 503. Rodgers v.
Commonwealth, 285 S.W.3d 740, 754 (Ky. 2009). The
standard of review of such a determination is whether the
trial court had a "substantial basis" for finding
probable cause that the defendant's use of force was
unlawful. Commonwealth v. Lemons, 437 S.W.3d 708,
715 (Ky. 2014). Probable cause is "reasonable grounds
for belief, supported by less than prima facie proof
but more than mere suspicion." Commonwealth v.
Jones, 217 S.W.3d 190, 200 (Ky. 2006) (Scott, J.,
dissenting) (quoting United States v. Bennett, 905
F.2d 931, 934 (6th Cir. 1990)). The court must consider the
totality of the circumstances to determine whether probable
cause exists to conclude that a defendant's use of force
was unlawful. Rodgers, 285 S.W.3d at 754-55.
upon the testimony of Detective Bowles, the trial court had a
substantial basis for finding probable cause existed to
believe that Taylor's use of deadly force was not legally
justified. In summarizing his investigation to the court,
Bowles indicated that while Mitchell was (by all accounts)
the initial aggressor when the men were inside the club, the
fist-fighting outside the club had terminated by the time
that Taylor retrieved the gun and shot the victim multiple
times. Detective Bowles explained that his investigation