Judge Denies Bartley's Appeal to Change Plea

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

Jacksboro, Campbell County (WVLT) - Kenneth Bartley Jr. won't get a second chance, at least not from a Campbell County judge.

The teen serving almost a half century in connection with a school shooting at Campbell County High School had wanted to change his guilty plea and perhaps take his chances at trial.

Bartley came to court Monday with a new attorney and new hope. Instead, he's right back where he was after making his plea.

Attorney Bruce Poston told the court Monday that Kenneth Bartley, Jr.'s April 10th guilty plea was not made voluntarily and his parents weren't in on the decision. District Attorney Paul Phillips calls Bartley's motion a "change of heart."

Bartley says he was nervous and scared that day and feared he'd get two life sentences.

"Mr. Hatmaker just kept talking about the felony murder and how I would probably get that no matter what, and he said Mrs. Bruce was really pushing for first degree murder,” Bartley said on the stand Monday.

Young Bartley's mother says she found out about the deal when Bartley's former attorney Mike Hatmaker whispered it to her in the court room.

"I didn't understand what was going on. I knew it wasn't what we agreed to. We agreed to have a trial,” says Bartley’s mother, Rita Vannoy.

Hatmaker told the court of Bartley's reaction to the plea offer, which makes him eligible for parole after serving 29-years. "He said ‘yes’ to take the plea agreement that he hoped they would go lower. But that he would take that.”

After nearly three hours of witness testimony and closing arguments, Judge Jon Blackwood ruled against Bartley's motion.

"Well, I'm disappointed in the decision,” says Bruce Poston, Bartley’s new attorney.

For the widow of slain Campbell County High School Assistant Principal Ken Bruce, nothing changes.

"Really we feel no differently today than we felt before. It's just there are no winners in any of this,” says Jo Bruce.

For Kenneth Bartley, Jr., there's another chance that things may change for him.

"While I'm not surprised at the judge's ruling, I think the record's good enough to look at a possible appeal,” says Poston.

Bartley's attorney, Bruce Poston, told WVLT that an appeal has to be done within 30 days of Monday.

He added, if he does appeal, it will be done sooner than later.

It's interesting to note that Bartley’s father did not attend Monday’s proceedings.


Join the Conversation!

To comment, the following rules must be followed:

  • No Obscenity, Profanity, Vulgarity, Racism or Violent Descriptions
  • No Negative Community Comparisons
  • No Fighting, Name-calling, or Personal Attacks
  • Multiple Accounts are Not Allowed
  • Stay on Story Topic

Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content, but the station is under no legal obligation to do so.
If you believe a comment violates the above rules, please use the Flagging Tool to alert a Moderator.
Flagging does not guarantee removal.

Multiple violations may result in account suspension.
Decisions to suspend or unsuspend accounts are made by Station Moderators.
Links require admin approval before posting.
Questions may be sent to webmaster@wvlt-tv.com. Please provide detailed information.

powered by Disqus

WVLT VOLUNTEER TV

6450 Papermill Drive Knoxville, TN 37919 Phone - (865) 450-8888; Fax - (865) 450-8869
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2014 WVLT-TV Inc. - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 8281242 - local8now.com/a?a=8281242