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Howell Trial Date And Venue Remain Uncertain

By Staff | Sep 5, 2012

John Michael Howell

It is still uncertain where the trial of John Michael Howell, 43, of HC 61 Box 114, New Martinsville, will be held. Questionnaires were sent to potential jurors and, based on their responses, the defense and prosecution have differing opinions of the ability to seat a fair and impartial jury in Wetzel County.

“My view of the questionnaires is there are not enough qualified jurors,” said Defense Counsel Keith Hart in Wetzel County Circuit Court Aug. 24. He said it appeared that 15 to 20 people polled had their minds firmly maid up on the matter. He asserted that maybe eight of those polled would qualify to sit on a jury to hear the matter.

While Prosecutor Timothy Haught agreed that a full jury would not be possible from those who received questionnaires, he said, “I still think that we could probably bring other individuals in and get a jury in Wetzel County.”

At any rate, the trial originally scheduled to be held Aug. 27 is indefinitely postponed.

At this point Howell still needs another attorney as appointed Defense Attorney Stephen Herndon withdrew from the case on Aug. 13. “As of yet I haven’t found anyone willing to make the commitment, of course.” said Retained Counsel Keith Hart. He said since they don’t even know where the trial will take place, it is difficult to find an attorney to take the case.

“Since he (Hart) is retained counsel, I really have objection with the State of West Virginia paying for another attorney with him,” said Haught. He also objects to him being able to “shop” for co-counsel.

Judge Mark A. Karl responded that there is case law that says Howell is entitled to two attorneys since he is facing a capital case where he could receive a life sentence.

Howell faces one count each of the felony offenses of kidnapping, second degree attempted sexual assault, first degree sexual assault, and malicious assault (respective to counts one through four) for acts committed against his wife to have occurred on or about Dec. 14, 2009, in Wetzel County. The two had been separated since August 2010 and have a child in common.

Karl deferred a motion on the admissibility of certain photographs.

Howell is to return to court Sept. 12 at 10 a.m.

In another matter, a capias warrant was issued for Tessa Young, 25, of Rt. 1 Box 140, Proctor, after she failed to appear in court Friday on the probation officer’s petition to revoke her probation. “When she signed her bond it clearly stated she was to be in court today,” stated Prosecutor Haught. Defense Attorney Earl Bowser also said he had not had any contact with her in the case.

On Jan. 18 Young was placed on three years supervised probation after two concurrent sentences of one to 15 years in the West Virginia Penitentiary for Women were suspended. The sentences were for two counts of delivery of a controlled substance (Oxycodone), a Schedule II controlled substance.

In July Young appeared in court on the petition to revoke her probation. At that time it was determined that she could post a personal recognizance bond in the amount of $2,500.

The petition alleges three violations of her probation: testing positive for Oxycodone, failing to keep an appointment with the probation officer, and failing to report an investigation of her by the West Virginia State Police.

Karl denied a motion to suppress search and seizure and a motion to suppress statements in the case against James Ronald Long, 61, of 414 Ohio Street, New Martinsville. While Karl did not have his written findings prepared yet, he did tell the court, he had done some research on the matter. “However, the bottom line is the fourth amendment rights does not apply to open fields,” said Karl, who added that he would have written findings for the Prosecutor Timothy Haught and Defense Attorney Scott Brown by this week.

Since the current term of court is about to end, a trial would be needed by Sept. 10. In light of that, Long waived his right to a speedy trial. The case will return to court Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. His bond continues.

Long, along with his brother, Roger Dean Long, 58, of P.O. Box 381, Reader, is charged with one count of manufacturing a controlled substance (marijuana) for allegedly manufacturing, by cultivation, the Schedule II controlled substance on or about July 21 in Wetzel County.

Finally, Thomas M. Smith, 21, of 20 Steelton Street, New Martinsville, appeared with Defense Attorney Brent Clyburn on a petition to revoke probation. Smith was placed on two years supervised probation on Aug. 16, 2011, after he successfully completed the program at the Anthony Center for Youthful Offenders. He was originally sentenced on Sept. 17, 2010, to one to 15 years in the West Virginia State Penitentiary for Men for his one count felony offense of nighttime burglary. That sentence was suspended and he was ordered to attend the Anthony Center.

Prosecutor Haught said he had spoken with Clyburn about the case. Smith has new felony charges pending and there is an offer to resolve all of them together. “We have begun negotiations to resolve pending criminal charges as well as this,” reiterated Clyburn. The matter was continued until Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. and Smith was remanded to the Northern Regional Jail.