Judge to determine if suspect’s statements admissible at trial

Whether or not statements made by Christian McKeel, one of the three suspects charged in relation to the March 2022 fatal shooting of Alijah Watts, will be admissible at trial remains up in the air following a hearing in Christian Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.

Defense attorney Eric Bearden represents McKeel and has argued that an interview he did with detectives with the Hopkinsville Police Department shouldn’t be allowed at trial, due to his client having requested a lawyer prior to that interview starting. As clarified by Judge John Atkins, Bearden contends that that interview should have never happened after McKeel requested a lawyer.

Detective Robert Stucki took the stand during the hearing to testify that he believed McKeel said he “thought he might need a lawyer” but also asked to speak to the lead detective, which was Stucki. McKeel did end up signing a waiver concerning his Miranda rights. Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Bolen says that means McKeel was aware of his rights and still chose to speak with detectives.

Judge John Atkins held off on making a ruling Thursday on if the statements would be allowed at trial but told both sides to make written filings that detail their arguments and case laws that support them.

There are other arguments that could lead to McKeel’s statement not being admissible. All three co-defendants—McKeel, Jonathan Weston and Joshua Cotton—are currently set to be tried together starting Monday.

McKeel is charged with complicity to murder, while both Weston and Cotton are charged with murder. Cotton is additionally charged with first-degree robbery and theft by unlawful taking.