Benton, KY


Prosecutors seek death penalty for man accused of murder

Tuesday, March 07, 2017 - Updated: 10:28 AM

By Rachel 

Keller Collins




  Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jacob Ford last week filed notice to the court the Commonwealth will seek the death penalty in the case of Joseph Cunningham, accused of murdering 47-year-old Gary Lambert and leaving his body at an abandoned property in Possum Trot in March 2016. 

  Following the hearing Ford said, “The decision to seek the death penalty is something that should never be taken lightly by the state. It deserves the highest amount of care and input from both law enforcement and the victim’s family. The state is not in the business of vengeance. Instead, justice is our goal in every case, along with ensuring the safety of the public. This notice simply preserves the state’s right to allow a jury to decide, should this go to trial, if capital punishment is the appropriate justice for Mr. Lambert’s life.”

  Cunningham was indicted by a Marshall County grand jury in May 2016 on five charges related to the death of Lambert, whose body was found by police at an abandoned residence in Possum Trot in late March 2016. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head that was consistent with a 20-gauge slug. Cunningham allegedly told police he shot Lambert but claimed self-defense. 

  Cunningham has been charged with murder, a Class A felony punishable by 20-50 years or life in a state penitentiary, for murdering Gary Lambert by shooting him; robbery 1st degree, a Class B felony punishable by 10-20 years in a state penitentiary, for robbing Gary Lambert by using a dangerous weapon; possession of firearm by a convicted felon, a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in a state penitentiary, for possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony; tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in a state penitentiary, for attempting to alter evidence that would be used against him in a legal proceeding; and persistent felony offender 2nd degree, an enhancer, for being convicted of receiving stolen property under $10,000 on Sept. 7, 2012, for which he was sentenced to serve a five-year sentence in a state penitentiary.

  Cunningham remains in the custody of the Marshall County Detention Center on a $1 million cash bond. 

  Special Judge Dennis Foust, who’s conducting the bench duties while Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson is on medical leave, said while he was aware the DNA results had still not been returned from the state lab and likely would not be returned even in the next month, he believed the addition of the death penalty “changed the tenor” of the case and scheduled the next status hearing for April 13.

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