Murder trial delayed

Published 10:14 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

Attorney asks to be relieved of case

Just hours before jury selection was to begin for a murder trial, the attorney for the defendant asked to be relieved from the case.

Warren Morford, attorney for Justin Wilson, a South Point man who is charged with aggravated murder and tampering with evidence, asked for new counsel to be appointed following an open discussion between himself, Lawrence County Prosecuting Brigham Anderson and Judge Charles Cooper.

Anderson said it came to his attention Tuesday evening that a codefendant in the case who was set to testify during the trial said he previously contacted Morford and told him details of the case.

Email newsletter signup

The codefendant was William Rice, who pleaded guilty in May to a first-degree count of aggravated robbery in connection with the case. Anderson said while he was interviewing Rice on Tuesday, Rice said he “already told Morford the same thing I’m telling you (Anderson and another investigator).”

“I wanted to address the potential issues there in open court,” Anderson said.

In January, Rice contacted Morford’s law office to turn himself in following the shooting death of Justin Adams on Jan. 13.

Morford told the court Rice did contact his office and made arrangements to come in but said they never discussed details of the incident, only his retainer fee. Although Morford was not hired, he said he agreed to take Rice to the county jail to turn himself in.

Even though Morford said he didn’t see the brief meeting falling under attorney-client privilege protection, he wanted to excuse himself from the case so no question could be raised as to his performance or complaints made to the disciplinary counsel.

“I’m not willing to put myself in any appearance of impropriety,” Morford said. “I merely tried to be a nice guy and that’s come back to bite me in the rear end.”

Cooper agreed with Morford’s decision.

“I can see where it would be difficult to cross examine Mr. Rice,” he said.

Cooper assigned attorney Gene Meadows to take over the case. The trial was rescheduled for March 14.

In other cases:

• Vernon Jackson, 60, of 3046 County Road 1 Apt. 4, South Point, pleaded guilty to a third-degree count of gross sexual imposition. The victim in the case was 9 years old. Cooper sentenced the man to four years in prison and ordered him to register as a Tier II sex offender.

• Matisha Leach, 30, of 59 Rosita Lynn Drive, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, pleaded guilty to two fifth-degree counts of violating a protection order and misdemeanor counts of assault, domestic violence and endangering children.

Cooper ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Nov. 4.

• Charles Calloway, 60, of 14618 Puritas Ave., Cleveland, pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree count of DUI. Judge D. Scott Bowling set sentencing for Nov. 18.

• Aaron Martin, 29, of 3439 County Road 103, Ironton, was sentenced to four years community control sanctions under intensive supervised probation, STAR and $470 restitution. He previously pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree count of theft.

• Michael Gore, 28, of 1422 S. Fifth St., Ironton, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree count of theft. Bowling ordered a PSI and set sentencing for Nov. 4.

• David Smith, 31, of 3060 County Road 1, South Point, pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree count of attempted failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 18.

• Brennan Banks, 21, of 912 Chestnut St., Ironton, admitted CCS violations and was sentenced to three months in prison.

• Andy Baise, 38, of 308 Township Road 109, South Point, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, a $5,000 fine and a driver’s license suspension. He previously pleaded guilty to third- fourth- and fifth-degree counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs.