Man found innocent in burglary case

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Lawrence County Jury took almost three hours to determine William Hedrick innocent of felony 2 burglary charges following an incident in the Wilgus area in January.

That verdict followed a two-day trial where defense attorney Michael Davenport portrayed Hedrick as a victim of circumstance.

Hedrick was found on the property by the owner and family where he was shot and held at gunpoint until sheriff’s deputies arrived. Jewelry was found near him.

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The 44-year-old Huntington, West Virginia, man was taken to a hospital where he left on his own without being discharged. He was the object of an approximately two-month-long search until he turned himself into authorities.

Davenport said Hedrick was in the area following an argument with his girlfriend and was walking for hours because he was distraught about the breakup.

“(They) shot an innocent man,” Davenport told the jury of eight women and four men. “Mr. Hedrick was just there. They cooked up a story. None of the items (found at the scene) were tested for fingerprints. He suffered being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

However, assistant prosecuting attorney Jeff Smith said the time between the arrival of the homeowners and the sheriff’s deputies was too short to allow them to fabricate a story.

“There is no question it is Mr. Hedrick,” Smith told the jury. “You know a burglary happened. Door was kicked in, pried open. You saw the condition of the bedroom. Things out of place. From commonsense this man is guilty of burglary. We have him behind the residence and seeing him run away. You don’t have to have a picture of him inside the building.”

Before the jury came in with its verdict, Davenport made a motion for a mistrial after Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper reported two jurors making comments about the case outside the jury room to third parties.

The first was when they were escorted out to have a smoke break and one juror told bailiff John Smith that “We’re this close.”

To which Smith replied that he did not want to hear comments.

The second was to constable Don Battiste who had taken three jurors out to the Fifth Street side of the courthouse for the smoke break when a juror said to Battiste, “You know he is guilty.”

Upon hearing that Davenport made his mistrial motion. Smith countered by agreeing the juror’s misconduct directly violated the judge’s directives, but that it was not prejudicial. He did say that juror could possibly be the object of a misconduct hearing later.

“If the verdict is not guilty, the defense’s motion is moot,” Smith said.