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Ky. Supreme Court upholds ruling vacating conviction of men in 1992's 'Satanic' murder

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Ky. Supreme Court upholds ruling vacating conviction of men in 1992's 'Satanic' murder

By Darcy Costello
The Courier-Journal

The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's ruling vacating the convictions of two men sentenced to life in prison for their alleged involvement in a 1992 murder police and prosecutors claimed was Satanically inspired.

Jeffrey Clark and Garr Hardin spent more than 20 years behind bars before a Meade Circuit judge found last year there was no "credible evidence" that the murder of Rhonda Sue Warford was motivated by Satanic worship.

The Kentucky Supreme Court Thursday affirmed the order of the lower court, which vacated Clark and Hardin's convictions and ordered a new trial.

Hardin and Clark were convicted in 1995 of stabbing to death 19-year-old Warford and dumping her body in a field. Prosecutors claimed at trial that the pair had committed the murder as part of a Satanic sacrifice.

But Meade Circuit Judge Bruce Butler wrote in a 24-page opinion last July that DNA testing showed that testimony was false and there was no credible evidence to support that Satanic ritual claim.

Meade Commonwealth's Attorney David Michael Williams has since signaled his intent to bring them back to trial.

Linda Smith, supervising attorney of the Kentucky Innocence Project, applauded the court's decision Thursday for recognizing the "many flaws" in the original prosecution of Hardin and Clark.

"We hope this decision will persuade Commonwealth's Attorney David Williams to realize that this case was based on nothing more than far reaching conjecture that has now been completely discredited by DNA evidence and should be dismissed once and for all," Smith wrote in a news release.

Last month, Clark and Hardin filed separate lawsuits, contending that their convictions were not an accident, but the result of police misconduct.

In federal lawsuits filed in July against the city, Metro Government, Meade County, several Louisville Metro Police officers or detectives and other officials, the men say evidence was fabricated to get a conviction.

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