Judge rejects plea deal in attempted murder case

Cris Ritchie — Editor

September 12, 2013

HAZARD – A Perry County woman facing attempted murder charges will likely go to trial after a judge rejected a plea agreement which could have resulted in a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Lilli N. Hurt, 21, of Bonnyman, appeared in Perry Circuit Court on Thursday where Judge William Engle considered her guilty plea on charges amended from first-degree robbery and attempted murder, to second-degree robbery and three counts of second-degree assault, along with one count of third-degree assault. She is alleged to have stabbed two people and attempted to stab another during a robbery at the Grapevine BP station in September 2012.
Two victims in the case, however, said they could not agree with the plea bargain which called for Hurt to serve a maximum of 25 years with eligibility for parole in only five.
“The only difference between her standing here with murder charges and the assault charges she is agreeing to, is I was flown to Lexington and they stopped my bleeding,” said Raedawnua Slone, who was stabbed in the hand and had to undergo surgery and physical therapy as a result of her injuries. “That's the difference. Otherwise she would be standing there with murder charges. She tried to end my life, and five years is a slap on the wrist. It's just not enough for me.”
Hurt also was alleged to have stabbed Keisha Miller in the incident, who also was present on Thursday and agreed that the possibility of Hurt's release in five years is not enough.
“She literally did try to kill her,” Miller said. “She didn't come to rob the store first. She came back to where we were and stabbed her. She went for her stomach. If Raedawnua hadn't put her hand up when she did, she would have stabbed her in the stomach.”
Miller added the physical injuries were not her only consideration in her decision, but the emotional toll as well.
“I don't want her out on parole in five years,” she said.Judge Engle noted the only knowledge he had of the case was information included in the indictment. He asked Commonwealth's Attorney John Hansen for his rationale in recommending the plea agreement.
Hansen agreed that by statute Hurt would be eligible for parole well before the maximum term, but added it would be unlikely for the parole board to grant it so early in this case. He said the board not only takes into account the facts, but also the victims' statements carry a lot of credibility and weight.
“I have every confidence in the world they're not going to let her out in five years,” Hansen said.
He added a jury trial comes with an uncertain outcome, and the defense could raise questions as to Hurt's state of mind at the time of the incident. A jury could convict Hurt on lesser charges, or even acquit her all together.
Engle went on to review the police report and inquired about a report on Hurt's psychological profile. Defense attorney Gerald Teaster said the psychological report showed a “series of mental disturbances and extremely low cognitive capability in the retarded range.” Those factors, he said, combined with Hurt's alleged intoxication on the night of the incident could result in a jury convicting on different charges.
“There is a possibility of reduced charges, from the original charges down to something similar to what we have in the plea agreement,” Teaster said.
After reviewing the case, Engle said it appeared the agreement before him did not seem to be an inappropriate one based on his limited knowledge of the case. He asked Slone if she understood the risk of taking the case to trial, to which she answered that she does.
Engle went on to reject the agreement, noting that while he respects the work both attorneys put into the agreement, the victims none the less understand the risk of taking the case before a jury.
Teaser requested a status conference in two weeks which will give him time to contact his expert witness and determine the dates the witness would be available to testify at trial.
Hurt is scheduled to be back in court on Sept. 26, at which time Engle is expected to schedule a new trial date.