KY Supreme Court upholds decision for Bardstown judge to remain on Brooks Houck case

The Kentucky Supreme Court has denied a motion filed by Brooks Houck, accused of killing his former girlfriend Crystal Rogers, to have the judge in his murder case disqualified.

On Monday, the supreme court upheld Nelson Circuit Judge Charles Simms III’s ruling to remain on the case — a decision Simms made last week. Houck appealed to the state supreme court previously in an attempt to have Simms removed, but the state supreme court asked Simms to make his own decision on whether he should recuse himself before the state’s highest court made a ruling.

In his ruling, Chief Justice Laurance VanMeter said Houck “failed to demonstrate any disqualifying circumstance that would require the appointment of a special judge” under state law.

The request was denied without prejudice, meaning Houck’s attorneys can alter their claim.

Houck’s attorneys filed their motion to have Simms removed shortly after he denied a request to lower Houck’s $10 million bond in October. Houck’s lawyers claimed Simms wasn’t impartial.

The dispute which led Houck to ask for Simms’ removal was tied to a 2017 custody case involving a woman Houck was dating at the time — an indicator of how Houck’s alleged responsibility for the death of Crystal Rogers has impacted the Bardstown community for several years.

In that case, Simms made a statement in his ruling that Houck saw as detrimental to him, but Simms ultimately ruled in Houck’s favor.

In his ruling in the Houck case last week, Simms was clear in his stance that he didn’t have “an appearance of lack of impartiality and antagonism towards Mr. Houck,” as Houck’s lawyers asserted in their main argument for having Simms removed.

In addition, Simms again defended his decision to set Houck’s bond at $10 million, which even Simms acknowledged was an “outlier” amount. But he said it was justified because Houck has access to lots of money and there is concern over the safety of others involved in the case.

Houck was indicted in September on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence in the death of Crystal Rogers, his former girlfriend, who was last seen in July 2015. He has pleaded not guilty.

Reporter Christopher Leach contributed to this story.