2017-12-20 / Front Page

Trial may not end before the weekend

The trial of a Pike County man accused in the New Year’s 2014 stabbing death of Michael Hogg in downtown Whitesburg will likely last until at least Christmas weekend.

Today, Wednesday, is the 13th day of the trial, and the 10th day of testimony. It was expected to be the final day of testimony before closing statements.

The biggest surprise of the trial so far was Tuesday, when the defense called defendant James R. Huffman IV to testify in his own defense, a move defense attorneys often avoid. (See story above.)

The defense began its case on Monday, and was recalling many of the prosecution witnesses, going over testimony of those witnesses and their perception of other witnesses’ testimony. Four new witnesses were called Monday — Brian Hogg, Bobby Hogg, Justin Messer and Kentucky State Police Lt. Claude Little. Prosecution witnesses Stacy Phillips, who was present during the murder and was cut on the hand, and retired KSP Det. Chris Collins were recalled by the defense. Lead detective Sgt. Joel Abner was recalled at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and testified until about 12:30 before the court recessed for an hour for lunch.

Abner completed his testimony about 2 p.m.

Brian Hogg is the father of Caleb Hogg, who told police that James R. Huff- man IV and Patrick Smith were hiding outside his house when he returned home from his grandparents’ house on New Year’s Eve. Bobby Hogg is Caleb Hogg’s younger brother. Messer is a friend of the brothers who was with them when they saw the two men accused in the crime. Little was the supervisor of the detectives conducting the investigation.

The prosecution may still call rebuttal witnesses after the defense closes its case in chief, and both sides will be allotted time for closing arguments before the jury retires for deliberation.

Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison Banks asked Monday evening how much longer the defense was expected to take, however there was no clear answer.

Special Letcher Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson said he could not estimate the time, given that each attorney gets to question the witnesses, and the prosecution might still call additional witnesses when the defense is done.

The judge did order the defense to tell him by Tuesday how many witnesses remained. As of Monday, defense attorney Robert Wright would only say “three or four tomorrow.”

The court recessed before noon last Friday after the prosecution completed the first phase of the trial. It recessed about 3 p.m. on Monday when the defense said it could not complete its next witness before the end of the day.

Tuesday morning, after a short session between the attorneys and the judge in chambers, the defense called Abner, who was the lead detective in the investigation and had already testified for the prosecution last week. Abner was on the stand for more than three hours before the court recessed for lunch, and the defense was not finished with him.

The defense has reserved the right to recall nearly all of the prosecution witnesses. Don Hogg, father of the victim, has been in the hallway outside the courtroom each day waiting to be recalled or allowed in.

Court was recessed early again on Tuesday, after the defense objected to a question from the prosecution about an earlier arrest of Huffman.

— By SAM ADAMS

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