Baines murder trial postponed for skills assessment | New


The murder trial of Arnett B. Baines, which faces the death penalty for the three people shot dead in 2019 on Audubon Avenue, has been postponed.

Baines, 33, was due to stand trial on November 1. He is charged with murder, first degree assault, tampering with evidence and other charges on January 17, 2019, death of Robert D. Smith, 35, Jay Michael Sowders, 43, and Christopher Carie, 18 years.

All three died after being shot in the head at Sowders’ home on Audubon Avenue in an incident partially captured by home surveillance cameras. A fourth person, Carmen Vanegas, was also shot in the head but survived.

Baines’ co-accused Cylar M. Shemwell, 34, also faces murder and first-degree assault charges and is expected to stand trial next summer.

In a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Tom Griffiths, one of Baines’ attorneys, said he planned to present evidence during the trial that Baines suffered from mental health issues.

In response, Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Kuegel filed a motion to have Baines examined for mental disorder at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in La Grange. The same law that allows the defense to present evidence of mental disorder to jurors also allows prosecutors to request that the accused be examined.

Kuegel said his request to have Baines evaluated at the KCPC “goes hand in hand” with Griffith’s intention to discuss Baines’ sanity at the trial. Kuegel said sending Baines to La Grange would add time to the process, as KCPC has a number of defendants awaiting assessment.

“This is set for a November trial date,” Kuegel told Daviess Circuit Judge Jay Wethington. Kuegel said a KCPC official was prepared to testify that the facility wouldn’t be able to take on Baines’ case for months.

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“Our witness will testify that their backup time is at least seven to eight months,” Kuegel said.

Wethington canceled the November 1 trial date.

“I am aware that KCPC has a backlog,” said Wethington, who added that he would urge KCPC officials to speed up the assessment of Baines.

“Depending on what I hear, I will set a trial date,” Wethington said.

Kuegel said the defense should not have waited a few months before the trial.

“If this were to be a problem, it should have been brought earlier,” Kuegel said.

Baines is then scheduled to appear in court on November 2, for Wethington to hear about the status of the case.

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