Attorney appointed to represent Newell

September 25, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Michael Alan Newell met with his attorney Wednesday for about an hour as his Friday preliminary hearing approaches on charges that he kidnapped and murdered his niece, 7-year-old Jessica Lynn Newell.

Berkeley County Public Defender Aaron Amore was appointed Wednesday by Circuit Judge Thomas Steptoe to represent Michael Newell, who was arrested Monday by West Virginia State Police. Police and scores of FBI agents were involved in the investigation, which began following the disappearance of the Baker Heights girl from Pikeside Bowl last Thursday.

"I just met with him today. The status of my representation is unsure. The family is trying to secure him a private attorney," Amore explained Wednesday afternoon. He said he would have a better idea today whether the preliminary hearing before Magistrate Eugene Darlington would go forward as scheduled on Friday.


State law requires that the hearing be held within 10 days of charges being filed.

"I think the money amounts they are quoting these people are quite high," Amore remarked about the prices being quoted to the family for a private attorney. He said the figures he heard requested by attorneys to represent Newell were in the range of $50,000 to $60,000.

"And they wanted it up front," he added.

Prior to his arrest, Newell had talked with local lawyer Kevin D. Mills, who said "all I can really say is I consulted with him on two occasions before his arrest."

"The preliminary hearing is just a measure to establish probable cause," Amore said, adding that the standard for that is low. To have a defendant bound over for court, Amore said the prosecution basically has to establish a better than 50 percent probability that the person had a role in the crime.

"In almost all serious cases, probable cause is established and the case goes to a grand jury," the public defender said. The grand jury would then decide whether to indict the defendant.

The next grand jury in Berkeley County meets in October, although evidence processing and testing could push the case back further.

Amore said at this point he does not know much more about the case than what has appeared in the media.

"I'm not entitled to anything until he's indicted," according to Amore, who said that includes the discovery process, whereby the defense examines all the evidence and statements assembled by the police and prosecution.

Meanwhile, Newell remains in the Eastern Regional Jail without bond and Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games--Neely has said she will "adamantly oppose" any efforts to release him on bail.

A statement issued by the jail says Newell "is being kept separate from all other inmates" in protective custody. The statement says his housing assignment will be evaluated in the next few days.

"He is considered a maximum-security inmate and all precautions that are routine with any maximum security inmate are in place," the statement continues. The statement also says that any information about his status at the jail would only be shared with law enforcement authorities and the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

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