On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, the Lexington Herald Leader reported that Fayette Circuit Court Judge Julie Muth Goodman denied the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney’s office’s motion for her to recuse herself from an upcoming murder trial.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Kimberly Baird had filed the motion on January 12th, just days before Darryl Russell’s trial was set to begin. Russell faces murder charges in connection with the death of 18-year-old Darian Webb in March 2022. In her motion, Baird alleged that Judge Goodman held a personal bias against the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and would not be able to preside over the case impartially.

However, in her ruling issued on April 30, Judge Goodman rejected Baird’s claim of bias. Goodman noted that if judges were forced to recuse themselves simply for finding prosecutorial misconduct, it would allow prosecutors to act without consequence. Goodman had previously accused Baird’s office of seeking disproportionately harsh punishments against minority defendants in another case in December 2023.

In that previous case, Goodman dismissed murder charges against Cornell Thomas, who was involved in a fatal car accident, citing a lack of evidence. In her dismissal order, Goodman said she had observed racial disparities in the way Baird’s office charged and prosecuted cases. Baird acknowledged in an April 29 hearing that racial inequities do exist in charging but denied racially profiling defendants.

At the hearing on the recusal motion, Baird and Goodman engaged in a contentious debate, talking over each other and raising their voices at times. Baird argued Goodman had treated her office unfairly compared to public defenders. However, Darryl Russell’s defense attorney Abe Mashni opposed the motion, saying the claims against Goodman were insufficient for recusal.

Mashni said his client had been “caught in the crosshairs” of tensions between Goodman and Baird’s office. While Russell’s lawyers were prepared for trial, Mashni argued the recusal motion had caused unnecessary delay and disruption. Ultimately, Judge Goodman ruled she had not displayed bias and would continue presiding over the case. Baird maintains she will continue seeking Goodman’s recusal in all cases involving her office going forward.

 

 

Source: Lexington Herald Leader