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Capital murder trial date could be set at February hearing

Posted: January 29, 2014 - 11:02am

The prosecution and defense involved in a 2013 capital murder case will look to set the matter for trial at a late February hearing.

The decision was made at Lee Andrew Foster’s court hearing Wednesday, and set for Feb. 26 by Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio. Both sides agreed they expected the trial to last about two weeks.

Maggio also signed off on two motions filed this month by Foster’s defense attorneys, Teri Chambers and Joe Tobler, from the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. There was no objection from the prosecution.

The court orders allow the defense access to medical records surrounding the death investigation of Foster’s mother in 2008, and Foster’s complete incarceration records. In both instances, the defense states information from the documents could lead to mitigating evidence.

“A defendant who may be sentenced to death has a constitutional right to present mitigating evidence, and failure of his attorney to thoroughly investigate the defendant’s background will render the assistance of his counsel ineffective,” the defense states in both motions.

In the Jan. 14 motion requesting all medical examiner’s records on Foster’s mother, the defense said it had determined an autopsy was performed after the May 2008 death of Foster’s mother, identified as Lygia Hammonds. The defense said the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory informed the defense it would need a court order to release the records as the lab was cautious “not to run afoul of the confidentiality statute,” since Hammonds’ death did not directly result in Foster’s charges.

In its motion Tuesday requesting Foster’s incarceration records, the defense said the file should include, “but not be limited to, disciplinary actions taken, good time awarded, letters written to the parole board on behalf of the defendant, work assignments given, detainers lodged against defendant and their disposition, medical records, mental health records and a complete record of the criminal history of defendant, to date, while incarcerated.”

According to court documents, Foster, of Morrilton, was convicted of possession of a controlled, counterfeit substance without a prescription in January 2007, and convicted of commercial burglary and criminal attempt, both class C felonies, in July 2007. Foster is currently serving time at the Grimes Unit in Newport, regarding probation revocation from those two Faulkner County cases, according to the Arkansas Department of Corrections website.

Also Wednesday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Troy Braswell informed the court the defense had requested Foster be transported to the Faulkner County jail, only if the need for a prolonged meeting with its defendant arose. Braswell said the prosecution had no objection to the request, and would cooperate when needed.

In addition to a capital murder charge, Foster faces charges of first-degree battery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a certain person for his alleged involvement in a Father’s Day double-shooting at the Motel 6 in Conway.

Police responded to the motel, located at 1105 Skyline Drive, around 1:30 a.m. June 16, and discovered Quenton Alexander — later identified as a relative of Foster — shot to death in the parking lot. A 20-year-old Vilonia man was also injured in the shooting, but was unrelated to an “ongoing feud” between Foster and Alexander, police said.

Foster, along with then 18-year-old Sierra Nicole Cook, was arrested June 20 in Morrilton. Cook, also of Morrilton, was originally charged with hindering the apprehension of Foster, but was additionally charged with capital murder Sept. 24. While prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty in Foster’s case, they are not seeking the death penalty in Cook’s case.

Cook, represented by private attorney Frank Shaw, is set to appear before Maggio at 9 a.m. Monday. Cook, now 19, is currently being held at the Faulkner County jail without bond.

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