Related article: Ky. police chief shooter to stand trial
Officer Down: Chief of Police Randy Lacy
By Cheryl Wittenauer
The Associated Press
MOUNT STERLING, Ky. — A jury has convicted a Kentucky man of fatally shooting the small-town police chief who was taking him to jail in his squad car.
Jurors found 38-year-old Jamie Barnett guilty Wednesday of wanton murder in the June 2007 death of Clay City Police Chief Randy Lacy. The maximum penalty for the charge is life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Powell Circuit Judge Frank Fletcher asked jurors, who spent nearly 15 hours deliberating over two days, to return Thursday for the penalty phase of the trial.
Lacy's killing shocked the town east of Louisville because he was known as an officer who treated everyone with respect: He even handcuffed familiar prisoners like Barnett in front rather than behind the back.
Two jurors wept as the verdict was read, and several of Lacy's family members teared up as well. One of Barnett's sisters whispered, "Thank God," when the jury opted for the lower murder charge. Barnett's family members declined to make additional comment outside the courthouse.
Prosecutors asked jurors to convict Barnett of intentional murder, which could have led to the death penalty. They said Lacy was shot point-blank in the back of his head with a single bullet fired from his own gun after arresting Barnett during a traffic stop. Lacy's car hit a stop sign and rolled into a ditch, allowing Barnett to try to escape through a window, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys argued for lesser charges of wanton murder or manslaughter, saying Barnett didn't mean to kill but was high on a mind-altering cocktail of alcohol, cocaine and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.
Lacy's brother, Chester Lacy, a deputy jailer in Powell County, said family members realized after such a long deliberation process that the death penalty likely wouldn't be an option.
Chester Lacy said he opposed capital punishment for Barnett anyway, but several Lacy family members were pushing for Barnett to be sentenced to death.
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"I forgave him the day it happened," he said of Barnett, a family friend. "I'm looking to the Bible."