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Alternate juror is released from murder trial

August 25, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An alternate juror was released Wednesday from hearing the murder trial of John W. Jenkins Jr. after he remembered that he had built a motorcycle for the victim in the case, with whom he said he had "a big problem."

The juror said that his wife reminded him Tuesday night that he had built a motorcycle for Steven Cole, 37, of Martinsburg.

The juror said he and Cole did not have a good relationship because Cole rode the motorcycle home, removed its wires and brought it back the next day to complain it did not run.

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One of Jenkins' attorneys, Kevin Mills, said he did not oppose the juror continuing to serve. Part of Jenkins' defense includes allegations that Cole was known to be a bully and a "gangster-type."

Jenkins has maintained the shooting was in self-defense.

Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes asked the alternate juror whether he felt he could continue to serve.

The man said he believed he could decide the case based only on the facts, but that he would not be able to forget Cole's actions.

"I'd hate to see a mistrial because of my stupidity," he said.

Wilkes said he decided to release the juror because it would be defying human nature to ask him to put aside the personal information he had about Cole.

In addition to the jury of nine women and three men hearing the case, one female alternate also remains. The trial was expected to resume today and continue into next week.

Little new information arose during the second day of the trial, when only one witness - Capt. K.C. Bohrer with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department - took the stand.

Cole was shot several times either in or outside of the cab of Jenkins' Chevrolet pickup truck on Goldmiller Road, just north of the Virginia state line, on the afternoon of April 12, 2002.

Cole jumped out of the passenger seat of Jenkins' truck at an intersection in White Hall, Va., 31/2 miles away from the shooting site, police said.

Jenkins, 38, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., has told police that he was driving Cole, his cousin, to Winchester (Va.) Medical Center.

Cole was shot several times and had wounds on his face, arm, midsection and back, police said.

Jenkins gave several statements to police on the day of the shooting, but his answers varied about how many times he fired the gun, when he gained control of the gun and how many times Cole fired the gun.

He has maintained that Cole first picked up the gun from beneath a stack of papers in the truck's cab. Jenkins said the gun was his and had been given to him as a gift, according to his statements.

In statements played in court Tuesday, Jenkins said that Cole fired the gun first, shooting it once.

On the taped statement played in court Wednesday, a video-taped statement taken at the shooting site, Jenkins told police that Cole fired as many as five times.

He also said they both struggled to gain control of the gun while in the cab, and that Cole had his hands on the gun when all of the shots except one were fired.

Several pieces of evidence were introduced, including photographs, bloody clothes from both Jenkins and Cole, and teeth fragments found in the truck and on Goldmiller Road.

Jurors also saw the gun for the first time.

Bohrer lifted it out of a metal box, turned it away from the jury box and checked to ensure it contained no bullets.

He described it as a Spesco Old West-style .22-caliber single-action revolver.

An unused bullet for the gun was found in the pocket of Jenkins' jeans, Bohrer said.

Bohrer testified that he believes part of the shooting happened inside the truck. A significant amount of blood was found inside, including high-velocity blood spatter on the case for an audio book on tape titled "Deadly Decisions," he said.

No bullet holes were found inside the truck, Bohrer said.

Answering questions on cross-examination, Bohrer said that Jenkins was cooperative and nonviolent. He testified that at one point he had asked that Jenkins' handcuffs be removed during an interview the day of the shooting.

Bohrer testified Cole was known to be violent, involved in drug transactions and a "loan shark."

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