Wilcox trial pushed back one week

Published 9:44 am Thursday, December 17, 2009

A scheduling conflict has forced a one-week delay in the start of jury selection for the trial of Tom Wilcox, the Ironton man accused of killing his wife earlier this year.

Defense co-counsel Charles Knight said the start of the Wilcox trial had the potential to conflict with another trial in which he is involved.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper moved the start of the Wilcox trial from March 8, 2010 to March 15, 2010. Cooper has reserved four weeks for the trial.

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Tom Wilcox, 38, is accused of going to his estranged wife’s Perry Township home on April 30, 2009 and beating her and then setting her on fire. Amy Wilcox was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W.Va. and then transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Cincinnati where she died a few months later.

The alleged beating and fire took place in late April.

While testimony in the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial is expected to last approximately three days, Cooper is allowing as much as two weeks for jury selection.

Because this is a death penalty trial, jury selection is more involved than it is with other criminal cases.

Cooper said a pool of 250 potential jurors will be summoned initially and each will be given a questionnaire to fill out and bring back.

Both prosecutors and defense counsel will be given copies of the questionnaires.

Depending on their answers to the questions, some people are usually excused at this point, such as full-time college students, people who no longer live in the county and people with doctor’s excuses.

Those who are not excused at this point will be called back in small groups to answer questions face to face in what is known as voir dire.

These potential jurors will be asked their thoughts on the death penalty, if they know any of the attorneys, the defendant, the victim or anyone else involved in the case or if they have any other reason why they can’t or shouldn’t serve as a juror.

If Wilcox is found guilty, the final week to 10 days will be used for the mitigation, or sentencing phase of the trial.

During a pretrial conference Wednesday, Knight also requested permission to spend $1,000 to hire a company to retrieve Wilcox’s military records.

Knight said most of the time it takes as long as six months to obtain these records; by hiring a private company, such records can be obtained in as little as 30 days.

“Chiefly, this is important if we reach the second phase of the trial. This would be evidence the jury can consider (in deciding between the death penalty or life in prison) has he responded well to authority in the past?” Knight explained. “And I think the jury should know if he has been in the military.”

Knight also asked that Wilcox be provided a pair of eyeglasses at the county’s expense.

Wilcox is indigent and his defense counsel and related expenses are provided at taxpayers’ expense.

Wilcox had a pair of eyeglasses but they have been lost.

Cooper granted both requests.

Also Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Paul Scarsella, who is special prosecutor for the case, said his office has provided additional discovery to defense counsel, including the arson report. Attorneys in criminal cases generally exchange information they plan to use during the trial.