BENTON — A judge ruled Thursday that law enforcement personnel did not violate the rights of a teenager suspected of shooting several students in January 2018 at a Marshall County school, killing two of them.
The defense in the case of Gabriel Parker, 17, of southern Marshall County, had sought to suppress all statements he had made while being questioned on the morning of Jan. 23, 2018 at the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office in Benton. It also was suggesting that Parker’s rights were violated.
Thursday afternoon, Marshall Circuit Judge James T. Jameson made his ruling.
“Grounds do not exist to suppress the defendant’s statements; the defendant’s rights pursuant to Miranda vs. Arizona (a 1966 United States Supreme Court case) were honored and the defendant’s statements were voluntarily given without coercion from law enforcement. Further, the defendant’s right to counsel was not violated. The defendant’s motion to suppress is therefore denied,” stated Jameson’s order.
A hearing on these matters was conducted in August in Marshall Circuit Court. Several witnesses, many of whom were from law enforcement, testified as to how the interrogation went that morning. Parker was taken into custody by then-Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars after a search of the campus, following the report of an active shooter on the grounds of Marshall County High School in Draffenville.
Parker is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of students Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, both 15. He is also facing 14 counts of first-degree assault for being the alleged shooter in causing gunshot wounds to 14 students.
Trial is set for June 2020 in Christian Circuit Court in Hopkinsville. The prosecution in the case is not seeking the death penalty, but it seeking a sentence of 25 years to life for Parker.
In addition to attempting to suppress Parker’s statements, the defense also was claiming that Parker’s right to counsel had been violated. This had been hotly argued during the Aug. 19 hearing as testimony indicated that attorneys with the Murray office of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy had attempted to gain access to Parker while he was being questioned.
However, at that time, no attorney had officially been appointed, which was addressed in Thursday’s ruling. Jameson said, “The key is that the defendant did not ask for counsel until 10:22 a.m., and no parent, guardian or any other family member invoked the defendant’s right to counsel on his behalf until at least 10:18 a.m. (when Parker’s mother, Mary Garrison, spoke with attorney Bethany Wilcutt by phone) In essence, the “cat was already out of the bag” long before any invocation of the right to counsel occurred.”
That call was made as Garrison was being examined by a paramedic in an ambulance after learning that it was Parker who was being accused of being the shooter.
Individuals facing charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.