Attorneys preparing for Lyle Motel murder trial

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

In a little more than a month, an Ironton man will stand trial in connection with the deaths of three people at the Lyle Motel in August 2004.

Attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense are preparing now for the Feb. 28 trial, Lawrence County's first death penalty case in more than six years.

Roger Marshall, 54, is accused of setting a fire at the Ironton motel that claimed the lives of James Reed, John Meyer and Lolaetta Corbin Hicks. He is charged with three counts of murder and 12 counts of arson.

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Late last week, Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton rejected a request from Roger Marshall's attorneys that the jury be sequestered from the time they are sworn in to serve.

Jurors will be sequestered only when the deliberations begin.

"Because it is a high profile case and because of the newspaper and radio coverage, we were worried about the jury pool becoming contaminated after jurors are selected," Marshall's attorney William Eaches, of Gallipolis, said. "If I could write the rules my way, the jury would be sequestered as a way of eliminating outside influences."

Eaches admitted such a sequestration is rare - he has never had a judge order jurors to pack their bags for the duration of the trial.

The last time a jury was sequestered in Lawrence County was for the Leon Aliff trial 6 years ago. Aliff faced the death penalty for the murder of his estranged wife, Linda.

The motion for sequestration was one of more than 70 motions Walton heard last week in the case, some motions perfunctory, others not so.

Walton granted the defense's request to exclude jurors who would automatically vote for the death penalty upon conviction or who would admit he or she can not fairly consider mitigating evidence in the case.

He overruled a bid to exclude the death penalty as a possible sentence. The judge denied the defense's request that the jury be instructed to consider mercy in its mitigation phase deliberations and to prohibit the prosecutor from arguing that the jury should not consider mercy.

Walton granted the defense's request for money to pay for a defense psychologist.