One of three men involved in the 2002 murder of Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron lost an attempt to quash his sentence.
In a notice released last Friday, a Kentucky Court of Appeals panel upheld the conviction and sentence of Jeffery Allen Morris, 54.
Morris pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder and was sentenced in September 2003 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. He is currently serving this sentence at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex at West Liberty.
Morris had been a former MP who ran against Sheriff Catron. He was charged along with Kenneth White, with whom he was accused of plotting the crime, and Danny S. Shelley, 49, who actually shot Catron.
Returning on June 15 of last year, Morris filed a petition seeking redress for the remainder of his sentence “because the COVID-19 pandemic has put his life at risk” due to overcrowding of EKCC and poor ventilation, which “makes it more likely that he would contract” the virus. Then circuit judge Jerry Cox dismissed the motion a week later, saying he had found “no extraordinary circumstances warranting relief” under state procedural rules.
Acting as his own lawyer, Morris appealed the decision. The appeal panel – made up of Chief Justice Pro Tem Allison Jones, Justice Irv Maze and Justice Larry Thompson – upheld Justice Cox’s order last week.
“Put simply, the COVID-19 pandemic, an event that began just under two decades after Morris’s judgment, and which has nothing to do with his conviction, is not an extraordinary circumstance that allows him to extricate himself from his judgment of conviction. Judge Jones wrote for the panel.
The opinion also noted that, instead of filing a petition as part of his original criminal case, Morris should have taken a separate civil action against the director of EKCC to deal with any conditions of the containment claims – although the reparation does not include release from detention.
White died in November 2018 at the age of 70 while serving his sentence at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. Shelley, who pleaded guilty to murder and also received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years, is incarcerated at the Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Sandy Hook.