Circuit Judge C.A. Woodall entered a not guilty plea for Claude Russell as his counsel was not yet present during his arraignment, held Thursday afternoon at the Trigg County Justice Center.
Russell, 34, of Trigg County is charged with one count of capital murder in the June 2002 murder of Chantell Humphries. Woodall said he could face between 20 – 50 years or even life in prison if he’s convicted.
Russell’s attorney, Charles Hagan out of Louisville, was still about 30 minutes away when they decided to start the arraignment. Woodall said they’re schedules wouldn’t allow any more delays, as they had already delayed it for almost an hour and a half for Hagan.
Before the defendant was brought in, Woodall made some brief comments on the case, arguing that waiting nine years isn’t necessarily justice denied.
“I know that all of us have heard the old saying, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’ and that’s not universally true,” Woodall said. “Sometimes justice delayed is just delayed, and this morning, I guess, is symbolic of that.”
The judge continued by saying, “Whatever the ultimate outcome of this case is, justice will be done, delayed or otherwise, and so Mr. Russell does start his journey to justice here today in Trigg Circuit Court.”
Woodall asked Russell to get in touch with Hagan and scheduled his next court appearance for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10 – Woodall’s motion rule day in Trigg County. At that appearance, Russell’s attorney of record will be announced, and Woodall will set the next review date and a date for when the discovery must be given to the defense attorney.
There was some discussion between Woodall, Russell and Commonwealth’s Attorney G.L. Ovey about whether Russell wanted a public defender, with Ovey giving him applications for one. Ovey said it was his understanding that Hagan was only going to represent Russell for his arraignment, and that Russell might want a public advocate after that.
Hagan also represented Cadiz resident Devron Wadlington in a murder trial in 2006, wherein Wadlington and a co-defendant were both convicted of murder.
Shortly after the roughly eight-minute arraignment, Ovey said it’s not uncommon for the defendant’s counsel not to be present during the arraignment.
“It happens all the time,” said Ovey. “We have defendants appear all the time without counsel,” Ovey said. “(Woodall) entered a not guilty plea … there were no adverse consequences of any kind, form or fashion.”
He also said he wouldn’t seek the death penalty, as the “aggravated circumstances” weren’t there for such a punishment. He stated that the case is “on the fast track” until Aug. 10, but there is no timeline yet for when a trial would be held but added that he was confident the judge will give them a “realistic” target for a trial date in the future.
Many family members of both the defendant and the victim were present in the courtroom. Ovey talked to at least a couple of them after the arraignment was over.
Russell was arrested originally in 2002, but Ovey filed to dismiss without prejudice in April 2003 because he didn’t feel the evidence was there at time to bring the case to trial. Detective Steve Silfies of the Kentucky State Police was put on the case earlier this year.
A Trigg County Grand Jury indicted Russell again on Friday, July 15, and he turned himself in a few days later and has been lodged in Christian County Jail on a $500,000 bond.