Aug. 18—The rise in COVID cases once again across the state has resulted in even more delays in the court system.
Circuit court trials set for last week in the 27th Judicial Circuit, which includes Knox and Laurel counties, were all postponed and are currently being rescheduled. Jeffrey Scott Taylor was set for trial on Monday, Aug. 9 — he is charged with the murder of Shannon Vaughn Saylor in 2017. The murder trial for Joseph and Christie McFadden and sex abuse case against former South Laurel High School coach Jonathan Walker were also put off.
Commonwealth's Attorney Jackie Steele said the trials had been delayed again for a number of reasons.
"These cases were postponed for a number of reasons — medical reasons, COVID and courtroom protocol for COVID," Steele said. "The cases are still pending trial dates, but with the rise in COVID cases, I'm expecting some recommendations from the Attorney General soon regarding trials. They could be put off even longer."
Steele said the COVID pandemic has definitely delayed the "speedy trial" process. The Taylor case, for example, has been pending now for nearly four years. The case against Joseph and Christie McFadden is three years old — they are charged with the 2018 murder of Christie McFadden's mother, Sherry Rose. The McFaddens are, however, set for a pretrial hearing in Laurel Circuit Court today (Wednesday) on the murder, tampering with evidence, fleeing and evading police and other charges related to that incident. The McFaddens are accused of concealing Rose's body in a garbage bag and using her car to remove it from their joint residence in southern Laurel County to another location. Two men then took Rose's body from her vehicle and transported it in their truck to an isolated area in Clay County. Those two men — Michael Hinkle and Cody Hinkle — entered guilty pleas for their roles in the murder coverup. Both are set for sentencing today.
The case against Jonathan Walker is still pending. Walker is accused of having sexual contact with a minor age student while he was in a position of leadership (coach) at SLHS in 2018. Walker resigned his position after the accusations surfaced but was indicted a few weeks later.
The delays, however, have placed another hardship for prosecuting attorneys.
"The COVID pandemic has certainly put a stop to the court system," Steele said. "The court system is so far behind, I don't know if we'll ever get caught up."