Kentucky Gov Pardons Man Serving Life For Child Rape

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports:

Gov. Matt Bevin has pardoned a man serving a life sentence for sexually abusing and sodomizing his 6-year-old stepdaughter 20 years ago. In his pardon and commutation order on Friday, Bevin wrote that Paul Donel Hurt had been wrongly convicted in 2001.

In 2015, Hurt’s accuser recanted her testimony in an evidentiary hearing. However, the trial court did not set aside the conviction, with the Jefferson Circuit Judge Audra Jean Eckerle ruling that her recantation was an inconsistent, “shifting account” that was “no more likely to be true than false.”

The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in August 2018, noting that after the retirement of Jefferson Circuit Judge Stephen Mershon — the judge in the original conviction — he began corresponding with Hurt in prison and contacted the victim, after which time she recanted.

As you’ll see at the link, the appeals court ruled that the first judge had unduly influenced the victim, using “judicial coercion and intimidation” to force her recantation. Bevin’s last day in office is December 9th.