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1997 Kentucky School Shooter Denied Bid to Withdraw Plea

From the Office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway:


Attorney General Jack Conway and his Office of Criminal Appeals announce a ruling today by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Michael Carneal case. The unanimous opinion upholds a July 12, 2011 ruling by the U.S District Court for the Western District of Kentucky denying Carneal's request to withdraw his guilty plea in the 1997 Heath High School shooting that left three students dead and five others wounded.

"I agree with today's opinion and appreciate the careful consideration of this matter by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals," General Conway said. "I am grateful to all of those in my Office of Criminal Appeals who have spent countless hours working to ensure that justice is upheld, so that we may bring closure to the victims of this crime that tragically impacted the Paducah community and our Commonwealth."

Attorneys for Carneal, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, argued that he was mentally unfit to accept responsibility for the crime. Carneal pled guilty in 1998, but did not file for state post-conviction relief until 2004 and did not file for federal habeas relief until 2009.

The Attorney General's Office successfully argued that Carneal's appeal was not timely and therefore his conviction and life sentence should stand. Additionally, General Conway's prosecutors were able to prove that Carneal was competent in 2002, at which time he could have filed an appeal of his conviction.

"I hope this ruling brings some level of comfort to the families who lost loved ones and the victims who are still living with the injuries Carneal inflicted," General Conway said.

The Office of Criminal Appeals fulfills the legislative mandate (KRS 15.020) that the Attorney General represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky in all criminal appeals in which the Commonwealth has an interest in both state and federal courts.

Since General Conway took office in 2008, his Criminal Appeals division has filed more than 3,200 briefs on more than 10,400 issues and made nearly 240 oral arguments.

The Atlantic magazine published a first-hand account of the Heath High Schooting in December: The Atlantic