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W.Va. man pleads no contest to involuntary manslaughter

Judge must decide whether to accept plea in bicyclist's death

Judge must decide whether to accept plea in bicyclist's death

February 12, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A judge must decide whether to accept a no-contest plea from a man whose felony conviction in the traffic death of a bicyclist was overturned by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

A Morgan County, W.Va., jury in February 2005 convicted Brian Daniel Murray of a felony charge of failure to render aid in the death of Justin McAnulty. McAnulty was riding a bicycle on U.S. 522 north in Morgan County in June 2004, when he was struck by a car driven by Murray, according to court records. His body was discovered the next morning.

Murray last week in Morgan County Circuit Court entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Under a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but offers no defense.

Judge Gina M. Groh of the 23rd Judicial Circuit did not immediately accept the plea because she had not had time to review the case file, said Debra MH McLaughlin, Morgan County prosecuting attorney.

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The file had been mislaid in the Circuit Clerk's office, McLaughlin said.

A date of April 7 has been set for the plea and/or status hearing in Morgan County Circuit Court, she said.

The case initially was to be retried, starting Feb. 19, but that date has been removed from the docket, McLaughlin said.

When the state Supreme Court overturned Murray's conviction on June 5, 2007, he was serving a three-year sentence - one year in prison and the balance in home confinement. He was released June 7 on a $50,000 bond.

The June 5 Supreme Court decision to reverse Murray's conviction was based on prosecutor McLaughlin's statements during the trial that Murray did not testify, which constitutes prejudicial error, the ruling states.

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