Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

December 18, 2013

Manslaughter trial goes to jury

By Leeann Akers and Tim Preston
Journal-Times

Dec. 18, 2013 — Jurors began deliberation in a Carter County manslaughter case Tuesday afternoon.

At press time, the fate of Clifford “Boomer” Cathey, the Grayson man accused of manslaughter in the 2012 New Years' Day beating death of Heath Toney, had not been decided.

The day began with the prosecution calling Det. Travis Steele to the stand a second time for a review of evidence.

Steele testified that there was no reason to send a hair found on the knife collected at the scene for DNA testing.

He said because the knife matched a description of one owned by the victim, authorities believed it to belong to Toney.

Cathey chose not to testify on his own behalf and the defense chose to rest without calling witnesses.

After breaking for lunch, both sides gave closing arguments.

Defense attorney Brian Hewlett focused on the inconsistent testimony between witnesses.

“You can't have it both ways,” Hewlett said. “There was no structural damage to the skull. It doesn't make sense that Mr. Toney could be kicked in the head and have no scalp laceration or bruising.”

Hewlett pointed out a lack of evidence gathered at the scene, and questioned the knife, which he called a “red herring.”

“Mr. Cathey would have to have been a mind reader to know what kind of knife to plant on the scene,” Hewlett said.

“Negative results are just as meaningful as positive results,” Hewlett added. “There was a lack of evidence on the dirty boots and no sign that they had been cleaned.”

Ultimately, the testimony of Brian Rice, the co-defendant that changed his story on the witness stand was Hewlett's main point.

“Rice had made a deal with the prosecution so why change his testimony?” he asked the jury.

Commonwealth's Attorney Brandon Ison told jurors that calls made to 911 by Cathey were more for self preservation than to help Mr. Toney.

He admitted that some of the evidence and witness testimony was inconsistent and difficult to believe. However, he highlighted Hewlett's argument about evidence.

“The statement Clifford gave to 911 and police was not provable,” Ison said. “Even if the knife did belong to Mr. Toney, how did two against one become self defense?”

Ison argued that Cathey had more time than Rice to tamper with evidence and that authorities had no way to know for sure if the boots tested for blood were the ones worn during the assault.

“Mr. Toney had multiple breaks in his jaw on both sides of his face, as well as severe head trauma” Ison told jurors. “It is medically impossible for those injuries to be caused by one punch.”

The jury began deliberation at 3:30 p.m. and will continue until a verdict is met.

If convicted of the Class B felony of manslaughter and being a persistent felony offender, Cathey faces 10 years to life in prison.

For a full story on the first day of the trial, see Page A-5.

The jury’s verdict will be found on our website at www.journal-times.com as soon as it is available.