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Watson Argues Statement, Webber Deemed Competent

By Staff | Mar 14, 2012

Two returning defendants appeared in Wetzel County Circuit Court on Friday along with a newly indicted individual to continue various matters in their respective cases. A voluntariness hearing was held and another similar hearing scheduled. Also, an inmate hopes to be placed back on house arrest. Judge Mark A. Karl presided over the hearings.

Larry Virgil Watson III, 19, of HC 61 Box 95 B, Littleton, appeared for a voluntariness hearing on Friday regarding a statement he made to West Virginia State Trooper First Class F. L. Raynor on Sept. 27, 2010. Following the hearing Judge Karl moved to take the matter under advisement and set a return date for March 23 at 10 a.m. Watson’s bond continues.

The state called Trooper Raynor to the stand wherein he asked if Watson was Mirandized prior to making the written statement to the state police. Trooper Raynor noted the defendant was not read his rights at that time, as he was not under arrest.

From that point, Trooper Raynor explained the circumstances of the incident, in which he was in a helicopter performing drug searches when he identified a marijuana plant at Watson’s residence. After landing the aircraft Trooper Raynor then found marijuana leaves in the back of Watson’s truck. “Watson was not under arrest, but was asked to make a statement, which he complied,” said Trooper Raynor.

Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught then asked if any threats or promises were made to Watson to make a statement, to which Trooper Raynor said, “Not that I know of,” noting that he did not make any such arrangements but clarified that other officers were on site. “As far as I know, I don’t think anyone else took a statement from him,” he added.

Regarding the actual written statement, Trooper Raynor told the court only a written statement was taken, in which he took down what Watson told him. After the statement was completed, Watson signed it.

Defense Attorney David White then cross-examined the witness, asking if he was confident the leaves found in Watson’s truck were marijuana leaves, to which Trooper Raynor answered in the affirmative. White followed up asking if Trooper Raynor had any intention of arresting the defendant. “I don’t remember my intentions at that time,” he answered.

White then inquired about who took his client into a state police vehicle. Trooper Raynor said the defendant left the scene with Corporal C. Lantz to locate marijuana that had been supposedly discarded. Watson made his statement to Trooper Raynor after he returned to the scene.

It was then asked if Watson told Trooper Raynor that the marijuana belonged to co-defendant Stephanie Fox, to which he answered in the affirmative. However, Trooper Raynor said he did not handle the investigation with Fox.

Lastly, White asked the witness if he read the statement back to Watson or had him read it. Trooper Raynor couldn’t remember which, saying only that standard practice was to have the individual review the statement before signing it. “Did you ask if he could read?” White followed. Trooper Raynor said he would have asked him, and noted that he tries not to embarrass those individuals who aren’t able to read.

With no re-direct from the state and no other witnesses to testify at this time, the hearing concluded. The judge will make his ruling on the matter at the next scheduled hearing.

On Jan. 17, 2011, Watson was handed a one-count indictment for the felony offense of manufacturing a controlled substance (marijuana) wherein on or about Sept. 27, 2010, in Wetzel County, he manufactured, by cultivation, marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance.

In another returning matter, James Russell Webber, 67, of 83 Northgate Drive, New Martinsville, appeared in circuit court after a long absence wherein a motion for the court to determine him competent to stand trial was granted. Also during this hearing the defense asked for Webber to be placed back on house arrest, however the judge moved to take that matter under advisement. Webber, who had spent several months at Sharps Mental Hospital in Morgantown, has been discharged and is now being housed in the Northern Regional Jail. He will return to court March 23 at 10 a.m.

During the hearing Defense Attorney Martin Sheehan noted Webber’s treatment team at the hospital spoke very highly of him. Furthermore, Sheehan had asked a psychiatrist at the hospital if Webber was a danger to the community, to which the doctor replied he did not think so.

Sheehan went on to say that when he recently met with Webber, he was a changed man. “I haven’t had a client make this kind of recovery,” Sheehan noted, adding he was very happy with his progress.

It was then discussed what led to Webber’s bail being revoked. Allegedly around July 4, 2011, he cut off his home confinement bracelet. Webber then spent time at the NRJ before being evaluated in Charleston where he was deemed incompetent. While Sheehan believed that at that time his client wasn’t competent, he noted that even though Webber cut off his bracelet, he stayed in his home. “It wasn’t a good choice he made, but it was something rational in his mind,” Sheehan said of Webber’s reasoning for cutting the bracelet.

Sheehan then asked the court to allow Webber to be placed back on house arrest. “I don’t think he’s a danger to the community,” Sheehan affirmed. “I think he would function better at home.” He added Webber is now taking medication to help regulate his behavior.

Special Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Cramer told the court that historically the state objects to such motions. “We have concerns that are reasonable given the history,” Cramer said, adding that Adult Probation Officer John Lantz concurs with the state’s objection.

In addition to reducing the motion to writing, Judge Karl requested Sheehan submit several items to the court before reaching a decision. These items include the parameters of the bond, where Webber would be living, his list of medications, and an opinion from a psychiatrist regarding whether or not the defendant is a danger to himself or anyone else. The judge will take the defense’s request under advisement and rule on the matter at Webber’s next hearing.

On Jan. 26 Webber entered innocent pleas to his three counts of the felony offense of solicitation to commit a felony crime of violence for his acts said to have occurred between Oct. 1 and Dec. 8 in Wetzel County.

Between the said time period Webber allegedly solicited, instigated, or induced a cooperating confidential individual to commit three felony crimes of violence, namely murders, against three men, by offering to compensate said individual for the acts of murder, providing money to purchase a firearm to conduct said murders, and discussing plans regarding said murders.

Lastly, Robbin Sue Norris, 36, of P. O. Box 144, Hundred, appeared in circuit court wherein it was learned the state has made a plea offer, however Attorney Jeremiah Gardner said a voluntariness hearing regarding a statement the defendant made may be needed prior to any agreement. As such the judge set a voluntariness hearing for March 23 at 10 a.m. Norris’ bond continues.

On Feb. 22 Norris remained silent as the court entered innocent pleas on her behalf to her 18 counts of forgery and uttering offenses.

Norris received an 18-count felony indictment, all of the forgery and uttering offenses are to have occurred in 2011 on the account of Frances C. Finnin and Carolyn D. Crone-Aamot. There are eight counts each of forgery and uttering at B & C Deli for checks totaling $976 and one count each of forgery and uttering for a check in the amount of $76 at Koontz’s Country Cupboard.