Mark Handy: Troubled former Louisville detective indicted

Mark Handy (Source: WAVE 3 News Archive)
Mark Handy (Source: WAVE 3 News Archive)
Published: Sep. 26, 2018 at 6:41 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A former Louisville homicide detective at the center of four overturned murder convictions has been indicted on one count of perjury and one count of tampering with evidence.

WAVE 3 News last year exposed Mark Handy’s troubled past as a Louisville Police detective. His history included accusations of lying under oath, coercing suspects' statements and making up a confession.

The charge of perjury resulted from the Edwin Chandler Case, while the charge for tampering with evidence resulted from the Keith West case.

“This has been a long time coming,” West told WAVE 3 News through his attorney. “Det. Handy now has to answer to the wrongs he has committed.”

Handy had been under investigation by multiple agencies including LMPD, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office reviewed the information for six years, but Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine declined to prosecute. The federal investigations also resulted in inaction.

After the story, Louisville’s Metro Council passed a resolution to get the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office involved.

In April, Attorney General Andy Beshear removed the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office from the case and appointed a special prosecutor, the Hon. Shane Young.

The case was presented to a grand jury Wednesday, which decided to proceed with Handy’s indictment. The former detective will be arraigned Oct. 22.

Handy has been at the center of three homicide cases, which resulted in four overturned convictions. In each of those cases, it was alleged that Handy acted inappropriately during his investigations.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has acknowledged Handy lied under oath in court documents.

The city already has paid $8.5 million in one wrongful conviction lawsuit in relation to Edwin Chandler’s case. Chandler spent roughly nine years in prison for a crime the court determined he didn’t commit. There are other federal lawsuits against Handy in the pipeline.

Handy was a homicide detective with the Louisville Police Department before he became a sheriff’s deputy with Jefferson County. He retired from the department after another woman accused him of roughing her up during an eviction. The sheriff’s department told WAVE 3 News it did not have a reason to fire him, despite the numerous allegations of misconduct.

WAVE 3 News obtained and reviewed LMPD’s 5-year-long investigative file into Handy. The investigation was comprised of nine binders with hundreds of pages.

WAVE 3 News also reported his case went from the hands of LMPD, to the Commonwealth, then to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which worked with the Department of Justice and the FBI.

WAVE 3 News obtained exclusive emails that showed the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DOJ and the FBI were actively investigating Handy in February 2017 when the investigation seemed to stop in its tracks. The emails showed that on either Feb. 14 or Feb. 15 of that month, plans were made to interview a potential witness the following week. But just two days later, before that witness was even questioned, former State Rep. Denny Butler said he got a call from the Assistant U.S. Attorney on the case who said his office decided not to pursue the case any further.

In August 2017, LMPD learned the federal investigation was halted, and closed its own case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not comment then on the emails or specific witnesses. It said its investigation was limited to possible perjury in one civil lawsuit, adding that its investigation was finished, and the office declined to prosecute.

The troubles for Handy don’t stop there.

Two days ago, WAVE 3 News reported that Judge Olu Stevens agreed to disqualify the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office from the post-conviction case involving Keith West, choosing to appoint a special prosecutor instead.

This month, West filed a motion to clear his name of the manslaughter charges in a case that Handy investigated.

West’s lawyer, Amy Robinson Staples, who works with the Exoneration Project, argued the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and the Commonwealth Attorney, Tom Wine, should not be involved in West’s current case since Wine had served as a trial judge in the original case against him.

The Commonwealth asked Stevens to reconsider removing the office from the case, arguing that only Wine should be disqualified, not the entire office.

Stevens is expected to announce his decision at a hearing on Oct. 1. If he does not reconsider his original ruling, this would be the second special prosecutor assigned to investigate Handy.

Handy has been at the center of three murder cases that resulted in four overturned murder convictions:

1992 - Keith West: It was February 1992 when Kevin Harraway and Gerald White where shot and killed while in a vehicle driving down Magazine Street. Police determined Keith “Kiki” West was the gunman, and had jumped out of the vehicle before it hit a tree. At one point, West faced the death penalty. He contended Harraway and White had plans to kidnap and sodomize him and that the shooting was in self-defense. In the vehicle, there was a knife, a pawn shop receipt for a gun and homosexually-oriented literature. However, none of those items was collected for evidence by Handy, West’s lawyer argued. In fact, it was West’s attorney who checked the vehicle. There were also issues about a witness’s taped interview which had been recorded over. West’s conviction was eventually overturned in 1997 and reduced to a 10-year sentence, most of which he had already served.

1992 - Jeffrey Clark and Garr Hardin: Rhonda Sue Warford had been stabbed to death, and her body was found in Meade County. Clark and Hardin were arrested in connection with her murder. The allegations revolved around a satanic cult, including claims that Hardin killed animals. Handy testified Hardin told him he “got tired of looking at animals and began to want to do humans.” That’s something Hardin denied saying. There were also questions revolving around a blood-stained rag, which was taken as evidence in the case. Both Hardin and Clark were sentenced to life in prison. The Innocence Project got involved in 2009. Modern DNA testing revealed it was Hardin’s blood on the rag, which is what he had testified during trial. Their convictions were later overturned after they both served 22 years in prison. They filed a federal lawsuit in July 2017. They have been granted a new trial.

1993 - Edwin Chandler: Brenda Whitfield, 25, was shot and killed at a Chevron gas station. The shooting was captured by surveillance video. However, that tape was later recorded over with a video of David Letterman. A former employee, who was not present at the time of shooting, stated the shooter looked like Chandler, who was 19 at the time. At first, Chandler turned himself in on an unrelated check fraud warrant and told police he did not have anything to do with Whitfield’s murder. But, he later confessed to the crime and was arrested and charged with Whitfield’s death. During his trial in 1995, Chandler testified that his confession was false after being threatened by Handy that he’d arrest his sister for harboring a criminal. Chandler also stated he was fed information by Handy in relation to the murder. Chandler was convicted of manslaughter and first-degree robbery. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. In April 2002, Chandler was released from prison on parole. The Innocence Project got involved. In 2009, fingerprints on a bottle set on the counter by the shooter were found to belong to another man, Percy Phillips. Chandler was exonerated and Phillips was charged with Whitfield’s murder. In October 2012, Chandler’s civil lawsuit settled for $8.5 million. During those court proceedings, the court questioned Handy’s investigations and truthfulness, acknowledging Handy had lied under oath in other cases as well. WAVE 3 News found out that multiple investigations into Handy had already been conducted.

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