Judge finds Ragland liable for UK death

By Alice Haymond

A Fayette County judge ruled yesterday that Shane Ragland, who pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in August, is liable for the death of former UK football player Trent DiGiuro.

DiGiuro, a former offensive lineman, died from a gunshot to the head on July 17, 1994, while celebrating his birthday on the front porch of his Woodland Avenue home.

After the criminal case ended in August with Ragland’s guilty plea, the DiGiuro family resumed a civil suit that was initially filed in 2002 for damages against Ragland.

The DiGiuro family submitted a motion for summary judgment on Sept. 26, requesting that they would not have to prove Ragland’s liability before moving forward with the civil trial.

But Ragland’s attorney, Steve Romines, responded to the DiGiuros’ suit on Oct. 26, stating that his client’s guilty plea did not establish liability in DiGiuro’s death.

In that response, Romines said the consequences of going to trial played a role in Ragland’s decision to plead guilty and did not necessarily prove his guilt.

However, the judge’s ruling yesterday allows the DiGiuro family to continue the civil suit trial and receive compensation from Ragland without proving his guilt.

The DiGiuros declined to comment yesterday and referred the Kernel to their attorney, Thomas Conway.

“They’re glad that it moved forward,” Conway said. “They’ve been waiting awhile.”

Romines could not be reached yesterday to comment on the ruling.

Ragland was convicted of DiGiuro’s murder in 2002 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. But the conviction was overturned in 2004 when the State Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors misspoke in closing arguments.

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction again in March 2006 and ordered a new trial after research indicated that bullet lead tests that connected Ragland to the crime were unreliable in the original trial.

In exchange for the August plea, prosecutors recommended that Ragland serve an eight-year sentence. Ragland received credit for more than four and a half years served in prison as well as 14 months of home incarceration while he was out of prison on bond. He finished his sentence Aug. 30.

The jury trial for the civil suit will begin during the summer, Conway said. Because Ragland is considered liable for DiGiuro’s death, he will have to pay damages, but the amount will not be determined until the jury trial.