Wilcox attorneys to request change of venue

Published 10:08 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

Attorneys for accused murderer Thomas Wilcox said Wednesday they plan to ask for a change of venue for their client, citing an abundance of pretrial publicity.

Wilcox, 38, of Ironton, is accused of assaulting his estranged wife, Amy Wilcox, and then setting her on fire at her Perry Township residence in late April. She died in June after spending several weeks in a coma at a Cincinnati hospital.

“There was a lot of publicity for this case,” defense co-counsel Charles Knight explained after a status conference in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

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Knight said the request for a change of venue is one of probably 90 motions he and fellow attorney William Eachus plan to file on Wilcox’s behalf, some routine and others more specific to the case.

“They run the gamut of protecting our client’s rights. We’ll file a motion objecting to the imposition of the death penalty in this case as cruel and unusual punishment.

“It’s been ruled on a hundred times that it is not cruel and unusual but we’ve got to file it. The Supreme Court might change its opinion,” Knight said.

During the status conference Knight asked Judge Charles Cooper if he would be willing to postpone rulings on the 20 motions the defense has already filed until he and Eachus have filed the remaining 60 to 70 additional ones.

He indicated they expect to file the additional motions within a week or so.

Cooper has already ruled on some motions at a previous hearing, such as a request to have all motions heard and decided in open court and a motion to permit Wilcox to appear in court without restraints.

He agreed to Knight’s request and scheduled the new status conference for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 26.

Cooper said he would like to have such conferences approximately every three weeks.

Wilcox waived his right to speedy trial, thus allowing both sides more time to prepare their cases.

By law, Wilcox, who is incarcerated under a $5 million bond, must be brought to trial within 90 days from the date he arrived in Lawrence County and was served with the charges against him unless he formally agrees to extend that time frame.

“We’re looking at a trial this month or next without a waiver,” Cooper explained to Wilcox.

By contrast to the defense counsel’s numerous of motions they have filed or intend to file, Cooper said prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have filed only one motion so far and he ruled on it at Wilcox’s last court appearance.

That motion requested Wilcox be prohibited from contacting his two children or other family members of his wife’s family pending the outcome of the case.

Wilcox faces the death penalty if he is convicted of aggravated murder.

He also faces charges of aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, domestic violence and child endangerment, since one of his two children was at home at the time he allegedly set the fire.