Former Trooper Reacts to Woodall Ruling

Published 04/23 2014 05:25PM

Updated 04/23 2014 05:43PM

The U.S. Supreme Court rules a western Kentucky man who confessed to killing a teenage girl will be put to death for his crimes.
The justices decided, 6-3, to reject a new sentencing hearing for Robert Keith Woodall.  Woodall was sentenced to death for killing Sarah Hansen, 16, in 1997 in Muhlenberg County.  A federal judge ruled several years ago he should get a new sentencing hearing, saying the jury got bad instructions.

January 25th, 1997, a day former Kentucky State Trooper Ed DeArmond will never forget.

"In a way it feels long ago, and in another way it feels like yesterday," he says.

April 23rd, 2014 is one he'll always remember.

"I feel that justice has been done," DeArmond says. "This was the result I always felt was appropriate."

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the original death sentence should stand.  Justice Antonin Scalia said that woodall did not show the death sentence involved an unreasonable application of federal law. The sentence was overturned years ago after a federal judge ruled the jury got improper instructions.

"I feel like from the beginning, that it was a harmless error on the side of the prosecution and the judge and the Supreme Court validated that it was harmless," DeArmond adds.

But Justice Stephen Breyer and two other justices disagreed, saying 5th Amendment protections do apply in both trial and sentencing. Woodall pleaded guilty to kidnapping and killing Hansen more than 17 years ago. DeArmond says he fears the case could still go on for a few more years.   But for now, he's thankful the highest court went with the original ruling.

"I know the word closure, people like to use the word closure, but I do have a sense of relief that this sad chapter's finally coming to an end," he says.

DeArmond is now the mayor of Greenville, Kentucky.  Commonwealth Attorney Ralph Vick of Muhlenberg County says he was extremely pleased with the Supreme Court's decision.

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