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Challenge issued to change-of-venue order in new trial of man charged with failing to render aid to bicyclist

July 23, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A challenge has been issued to a change-of-venue order for the new trial of Brian D. Murray, whose felony conviction was overturned by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

On Monday, Debra MH McLaughlin, Morgan County prosecuting attorney, filed a motion in Morgan County Circuit Court asking the court to reconsider the change of venue.

Murray was granted the venue change on a July 2 order by 23rd Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh.

Groh, however, denied his request for a state-paid community study that would aid the change-of-venue request.

Murray was convicted by a Morgan County jury in 2005 on a charge of failing to render aid in the death of Justin McAnulty.

Police said McAnulty was riding his bicycle on U.S. 522 north in Morgan County in June 2004 when he was struck by a car driven by Murray. His body was discovered the next morning.

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A continuance was given by Groh until July 30 at 9 a.m. in Berkeley County Circuit Court to allow defense attorney B. Craig Manford, who represents Murray, to review McLaughlin's request for reconsideration.

McLaughlin's motion requests conducting a community study.

"The defendant has produced no evidence to support a finding that there is countywide present hostile sentiment such that he would be deprived of a fair trial. The only evidence the court has before it is copies of newspaper articles. There is no evidence as to what percentage of the community read the articles, recalls them, or formed an opinion of guilt or innocence based on those articles," McLaughlin wrote.

In the order, Groh wrote, "The defendant believes that hostility exists toward him in Morgan County due to the extensive newspaper coverage in the Morgan Messenger of the entire process of this case. The defendant fears that the hostility toward him will not allow him to have a fair trial in Morgan County."

"In the interest of judicial economy and to be most cost-effective, the court believes that justice would best be served by granting the defendant's motion for a change of venue," Groh wrote.

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