Judge vacates convicted murderer’s guilty plea

CLARK

CLARK

By Adam Armour

Itawamba County Times

An Itawamba County man convicted in 2010 of killing his own infant daughter may receive a new trial.

The guilty plea of Nettleton’s Joshua Clark, 28, has been vacated by Judge Thomas Gardner III. Clark had pleaded guilty to capital murder and child abuse and was convicted of depraved heart murder for the 2008 killing of his infant daughter, Kylie. He is currently incarcerated at the Mississippi Department of Corrections serving a life sentence, plus 20 years.

Last week, Judge Gardner ruled Clark’s plea be vacated on the grounds of ineffective counsel. The ruling has been filed with the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk’s office, and Clark will be re-arraigned on his original charges.

A plea date will be set after Clark’s arraignment, which will likely take place later this year.

“At this point, it is put back on the criminal docket for a new trial,” said Itawamba County Circuit Clerk Carol Gates. She said the trial could technically make the 2014 calendar, but will likely be scheduled for a date in 2015. That is, if Clark doesn’t plead a second time.

The ruling follows a petition for post-conviction collateral relief filed by Clark in 2013. The ruling states Clark’s attorney failed to obtain an “independent expert to examine the evidence and to present an opinion, at trial, if helpful.”

According to the court’s findings, Clark’s attorney testified that he had spoken with several experts regarding the case, including Dr. Edward Ivancic, the physician who initially treated the victim, and Dr. Steve Hayne, the pathologist who conducted her autopsy. The court found Clark’s counsel had, in fact, consulted with neither of these experts.

“It appears that this ‘consultation,’ if anything, was a casual discussion with an expert who had been retained in another matter,” the filing states. “As such, the record is void of any effort undertaken to retain the services of an independent third party witness qualified to give testimony at trial based upon a review of all available medical records of the deceased, or in the alternative, to provide counsel with an opinion based upon those factors that his/her testimony would not be supportive of [Clark’s] case …

“From all the information available, no expert was ever formally engaged and provided with information sufficient to provide the basis of an ‘expert’ opinion; good, bad or indifferent,” the ruling concludes.

Attorney Rob Laher represented Clark at the time of his conviction. Clark is now represented by Daniel Waide.

Clark was arrested and charged by Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department in January 2008 in connection with the death of his daughter, Kylie Clark. Clark was arrested after his child was taken to Gilmore Hospital in Amory and later to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis where she died of injuries later determined to be the result of violent shaking.

As part of Clark’s 2010 plea arrangement, the capital murder charge was reduced to depraved heart murder, removing the possibility of being sentenced to death. He was given a life sentence for this charge, plus an additional 20 years for the child abuse charge. He was sentenced by Judge Gardner.