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Motions filed to overturn slaying convictions

January 21, 1998

Motions filed to overturn slaying convictions

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Attorneys for two Maryland men convicted of the 1996 drug-related slaying of a woman in Shepherdstown, W.Va., have filed motions in U.S. District Court to have the convictions overturned.

Eric M. Turner, 24, and Pernell J. Sellers, 22, both of Hagerstown, were convicted Dec. 11 of killing Jennifer LaBelle Folmar, 23, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., who was found shot three times and stabbed 11 times in her car on Oct. 24, 1996.

Turner's attorney, Stephen Herndon, and Sellers' attorney, Harry Smith, also filed motions for new trials.

Judge W. Craig Broadwater said Tuesday he would need two to four weeks to rule on the motions.

A jury found both men guilty of committing a killing in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise, criminal conspiracy to distribute cocaine, interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise and carrying or using a firearm in a crime of violence.

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Turner was also convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise. Sentencing for both men is scheduled for March 19.

"I think it's clear from the evidence that Mr. Sellers did not commit the stabbing or commit any shooting in this case," Smith told Broadwater.

One witness testified he saw Sellers shoot Folmar, but Smith said, "I think it's clear even the government doesn't buy John Marshall Grantham's testimony."

Smith said the prosecution's case was based on "guilt by association" with Turner and the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He also said autopsy photos and testimony from one witness should not have been admitted.

On the murder charge, Smith said the jury was allowed to consider language from the federal statute that was broader than in the original indictment.

Turner will likely have one of his convictions voided. Broadwater said the prosecution agreed that the conspiracy count was canceled out by his conviction for operating a continuing criminal enterprise under double jeopardy laws.

Herndon said his cross-examination of some witnesses was improperly limited by the court. He also said evidence that Turner carried a knife and gun and that he traveled across state lines to commit the crimes was insufficient for a conviction.

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