Home » Appeals court upholds ruling denying plea withdrawal in Paducah school shooting case

Appeals court upholds ruling denying plea withdrawal in Paducah school shooting case

Michael Carneal had requested to withdraw his guilty

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 3, 2013) —The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today unanimously upheld a July 2011 U.S. District Court ruling that denied Michael Carneal’s request to withdraw his guilty plea in the 1997 Heath High School shooting that left three students dead and five others wounded, according to Attorney General Jack Conway.

Michael Carneal was 14 when she shot eight classmates at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky.

Carneal pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder charges and is serving life in prison. He is eligible for parole in 2023.

Attorneys for Carneal, who was 14 and a freshman at the school at the time of the shooting, argued that he was mentally unfit to accept responsibility for the crime. Carneal pled guilty in 1998, but did not file for state post-conviction relief until 2004 and did not file for federal habeas relief until 2009.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office successfully argued that Carneal’s appeal was not timely and therefore his conviction and life sentence should stand. Prosecutors from Conway’s Office of Criminal Appeals were able to prove that Carneal was competent in 2002, at which time he could have filed an appeal of his conviction.

“I hope this ruling brings some level of comfort to the families who lost loved ones and the victims who are still living with the injuries Carneal inflicted,” Conway said.

Perhaps the ruling will help bring closure to the victims of “this crime that tragically impacted the Paducah community and our commonwealth,” he added.

About the shooting

On Monday, Dec. 1, 1997, the first day back to school after Thanksgiving break, Carneal wrapped a shotgun and a rifle in a blanket and took them to school, reportedly passing them off as an art project. He also had a loaded Ruger MK II pistol in his backpack.

When he got to the school, he put in earplugs and fired eight rounds into a youth prayer group meeting. Eight were shot, three girls died later at the hospital.