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Justification hearing set in Holland murder case

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:00 am

A Christian County judge will hear arguments Wednesday (today) on whether a Pembroke man was justified when he shot his cousin.

Micah Holland, 30, is charged with the murder of Joey Weatherwax. Holland shot Weatherwax and ran over him with a car Sept. 9 outside a home on Old Palmyra Road. The two were reportedly engaged in a long-standing feud and argued over the phone throughout the night before Holland shot Weatherwax.

Holland’s attorneys, John Herbison and Fletcher Long, claim Weatherwax was carrying a 2-by-4 in his hand when he approached Holland’s car. The attorneys have argued that Weatherwax intended to harm Holland and that their client was justified in shooting him.

Holland’s attorneys filed a motion in early December arguing that their client fired in self defense. They based their argument largely on Kentucky’s stand-your-ground laws, which were revised by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2006.

Under the revised statutes, defendants are justified in using deadly force if they believe they are in danger of death or serious physical injury. In such situations, defendants are not obligated to retreat.

Christian Circuit Judge Andrew Self issued an order denying the defense’s motion in late December. Commonwealth’s Attorney Lynn Pryor filed a response to the defense’s motion, but Self elected to keep it sealed. However, Self indicated Pryor’s response shows Holland’s actions were unlawful.

In his order, Self wrote that, a few hours before the shooting, Holland told several people he wanted to kill Weatherwax.

Self also cited that Holland drove to meet Weatherwax, initiating the encounter between the two, and that Holland had a rifle in his car at the time.

“There is probable cause to conclude that the force used by Mr. Holland was not legally justified,” Self’s order reads.

However, the defense filed another motion asking Self to vacate his previous ruling and schedule oral arguments for the matter. Holland’s attorneys claim Self denied their motion before they even received a copy of Pryor’s response.

The motion also cites previous case law that allows for a pretrial hearing to determine a defendant’s immunity from his or her charges.

“In an adversarial system of criminal justice, due process requires a level playing field,” the defense’s motion reads. “An essential component of procedural fairness is an opportunity to be heard.”

Self said there is sometimes a need for a hearing to address matters of evidence, and he wanted to extend that opportunity to Holland’s lawyers. The main purpose of the hearing is to determine if Holland had probable cause to use lethal force against Weatherwax.

“They asked for an opportunity to present their arguments so I’m going to let them do that,” Self said. “Then I’ll take it under submission.”

Dennis O’Neil is a reporter for the Kentucky New Era. Reach Dennis at 270-887-3240 or doneil@kentuckynewera.com.

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