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Judge won't move W.Va. murder trial

January 18, 2001

Judge won't move W.Va. murder trial



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes on Wednesday refused to grant a request from the attorney for Jerry Lee Hess Jr. to move his February first-degree murder trial or get an out-of-county jury.

Craig Manford presented evidence he said showed that it would be difficult for Hess to get a fair trial locally. Hess is accused in the beating death of Deborah Lee Grove off Arden Nollville Road on Oct. 25, 1999.

Professor Virgil Brown of Shepherd College said a survey of 255 local residents showed many of the potential jurors would be aware of the case or had formed an opinion about it. Brown said it may take up to 270 people in Berkeley County and 50-75 people outside the county to find a pool big enough to get a fair jury.

Wilkes said he is aware of the potential problem, but said he would prefer to bring in potential Berkeley County jurors at the start of the trial Feb. 13 and see what happens.

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He agreed it may take a large pool of potential jurors to find the 12 people to hear the case and two alternates.

"Sometimes, it doesn't take a whole lot" of coverage to get people's attention, he said.

If it appears jurors can't be found who can serve in the case, he will decide then what to do, Wilkes said.

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