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Judge says jury can hear Munday statements

August 27, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

The jurors who eventually will hear the case involving a man charged with shooting a West Virginia State Police trooper once in the head last year will listen to testimony dealing with several statements David Eugene Munday allegedly made to police, emergency medical personnel and jail officials, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Munday, 38, of Hedgesville, W.Va., is charged with shooting Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick on Oct. 10, 2002. Elswick and three other troopers responded to Harper Lane in Hedgesville to handle a possible hostage situation involving Munday.

Munday was indicted on 28 charges related to the shooting and the hostage situation, including four counts of attempted murder, six counts of wanton endangerment with a firearm, one count of malicious wounding and three counts of kidnapping.

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His trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Oct. 21.

A nurse at Eastern Regional Jail testified at a previous hearing that Munday said he wanted police to shoot him that October night.

"He said ... he wished they'd shot him in the head and that's why he'd shot at them, to end it all," Christina Golden previously testified.

Circuit Judge David Sanders heard testimony from 15 witnesses last week regarding statements made by Munday. After hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides Tuesday, he ruled that the statements are admissible.

The shooting happened as Troopers John Droppleman, Robert Copson, Elswick and Sgt. Eric Burnett congregated on Harper Lane, discussing how to handle the possible hostage situation.

It was dark and raining.

As the four officers talked, Droppleman noticed what he called a "glint," he testified last week. He said that he has since come to believe the reflection came from the scope of Munday's rifle.

When the officers shined flashlights in Munday's direction, he brought the rifle to his shoulder and threatened to shoot, court records allege.

Munday did not obey orders to put the weapon down, Copson testified last week. "He told us to leave or he was going to kill us," Copson said.

After gunfire was exchanged, Munday ran into a nearby wooded area, police allege.

At that point Munday said, "If you follow me into the woods I'm going to kill you" and "Come on in here some more so I can kill you," Burnett testified.

Once in the woods, Droppleman testified that he sneaked closer to Munday. He testified that Munday was on the ground behind a log saying he wanted to give up, but that he still had his rifle pointed toward the other troopers.

Droppleman then pointed his flashlight toward Munday, who stood up and bent over. Fearing Munday was reaching for the rifle, Droppleman said he shot Munday with his shotgun. Pellets hit Munday's arm and legs.

After Munday was taken into custody, he continued talking, Droppleman said. According to Droppleman, Munday said, "I didn't shoot anybody," and that police couldn't prove he'd shot his gun.

Statements Munday made are important and relevant because they help explain his state of mind at the time, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said in court Tuesday.

As medical personnel wheeled Munday into City Hospital for treatment of the pellet wounds, former State Police Lt. Jack Hockman said, "Is that the (one) that did it?"

Munday, laying on a gurney, yelled back, "Yes, I'm the (one) who did it," Hockman testified.

With regard to that statement, Sanders ruled that jurors ultimately will decide whether Munday knew what "it" meant.

Sanders reserved judgment on one statement, which took place inside a police cruiser. As Sgt. Scott Richmond, with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, took Munday from the hospital to the jail a few hours after the shooting, he turned on his in-car microphone and recorder.

Although Munday talked during most of the ride, many of his comments could not be heard because of police radio traffic that drowned out his voice.

A transcript will aid Sanders in his decision on whether to allow that tape to be played to the jury, he said.

One of Munday's attorneys, Margaret Gordon, offered several reasons why she felt the jury should not hear any of the statements. Munday suffers from bipolar disorder and was intoxicated at the time, she said Tuesday.

"He didn't know what he was saying," she said.

Sanders responded that Gordon has made it known she intends to pursue an insanity defense at trial, but that the statements are relevant when considering Munday's state of mind and intent.

Immediately after the shooting, Elswick underwent brain surgery. He has since returned home to his wife in Berkeley County and is continuing rehabilitation.

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