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Judge Grants Request To Move Riggs Trial

By Staff | Aug 24, 2011

Justin C. Riggs

Justin C. Riggs, 23, of 558 Kappel Street, New Martinsville, was granted a motion for change of venue during his hearing on Aug. 16 after Judge Mark A. Karl heard arguments from Riggs’ Attorney, Brent Clyburn, and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Carl “Worthy” Paul regarding Riggs’ recent mistrial in Wetzel County Circuit Court. Per the motion, Riggs’ waived term of court and will be tried in Marshall County sometime in the next term of court. Riggs’ next hearing will take place Sept. 12 at 1:15 p.m., in Marshall County, wherein a new trial date will be set. Riggs was remanded to the Northern Regional Jail.

While publicity of the case was first targeted as the cause for many jurors to step down, it was learned more jurors were lost when asked if they would believe testimony from a member of law enforcement over other witnesses. Still, Clyburn filed the motion, stating that while only a few jurors were lost because of publicity, he felt that problem would escalate as the case continued. “I think it’s a combination of events that requires changing the venue,” Clyburn concluded.

Meanwhile, Attorney Paul argued it was a fluke that a jury couldn’t be seated and was resolved that another 45 jurors could be pulled and a jury could be determined in Wetzel County. Judge Karl considered the arguments and granted the defense’s motion.

On Aug. 1 Judge Karl declared a mistrial in Riggs’ case after it was determined an impartial jury could not be seated. During the jury selection process several jurors doubted their ability to impartially hear testimony from witnesses they knew or trusted, particularly from the doctors and members of law enforcement listed among the 15 potential witnesses in the case.

In many circumstances, jurors noted they would trust information provided by such trained individuals over that provided by other witnesses based solely on professional credibility. Additionally, some were excused from duty after admitting to having preformed opinions on the case.

Additionally, of the 45 prospective jurors summoned for duty, six individuals did not appear. However, two had called in ill and were excused prior to the trial. Of the 39 jurors questioned, only 18 remained in the jury pool at the end of questioning. Twenty jurors are required before drawing the final 12 jurors, thus resulting in a mistrial. Notably, those absent few could have made all the difference in seating a jury had they appeared.

Four individuals who failed to appear for jury duty without prior notice also appeared in Wetzel County Circuit Court on Aug. 16. Darrell Lee Gray, Thomas Steven Haught, Brenda Sue Palmer, and Francis David Springer appeared before Judge Karl to explain their absence on Aug. 1, the intended trial date for Justin C. Riggs, 23, of 558 Kappel Street, New Martinsville. For their misconduct, each were fined $50 to be paid by Aug. 19 at 4 p.m., or else see jail time.

On Jan. 26 Justin Riggs and codefendant Amanda D. Riggs, 23, of 558 Kappel Street, New Martinsville, entered innocent pleas to their two counts each of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and malicious assault, felonious offenses said to have occurred on or about Feb. 18, 2010, in Wetzel County.

Amanda and Justin Riggs allegedly abused their minor child and caused bodily injury to their child with the intent to maim, disfigure, or kill, by inflicting injuries to the child’s skull.

On July 25, Amanda Riggs pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment via a plea agreement and was sentenced to two to 10 years in the West Virginia Penitentiary for Women. In accordance with the plea agreement, she has agreed to testify truthfully against Justin Riggs.