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Guilty plea accepted in death of Morgan County bicyclist

no retrial

July 31, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Berkeley Springs man whose felony conviction in the June 2004 traffic death of a bicyclist was overturned after he served his time pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor in the same case.

Brian D. Murray entered the guilty plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter before 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Murray had been scheduled for a new trial in September.

A Morgan County jury in February 2005 convicted Murray on a felony charge of failure to render aid in the death of Justin McAnulty, who was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a car driven by Murray on U.S. 522 north in Morgan County, W.Va.

McAnulty's body was not discovered until the next morning.

Murray was serving a three-year sentence, but the West Virginia Supreme Court in June 2007 reversed his conviction, saying that Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Debra MH McLaughlin noted during the trial that Murray did not testify, which constitutes prejudicial error.

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Before Wednesday's guilty plea to the involuntary manslaughter charge, Murray had on Jan. 30 tried to enter a no-contest plea to the charge. Groh rejected the plea, saying she saw no real acceptance of responsibility on Murray's part.

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

Wednesday's proceedings, held in Berkeley County, had been scheduled for Groh to hear arguments on McLaughlin's motion for a reconsideration of the judge's order granting Murray a change-of-venue request for the new trial. But Murray entered the plea instead.

Before the plea was entered, Groh asked McLaughlin if Murray would have to serve additional time were he to be retried and convicted again. McLaughlin said that no additional time could be imposed.

In entering the plea, Murray recalled the night of June 15, 2004. He said he was driving home, south on U.S. 522, when he hit something on the road. He said he slowed down and there was a second impact. He said he stopped and went back but did not see anything.

He went home and told his wife what happened and they went back to the site and made two passes but did not find anything. They went home and called the police, he said.

The next morning, he saw blood on his car and he went back to the site and saw the bicycle and McAnulty.

Murray said that before the accident he was paying attention to a tractor-trailer in a pull-off area instead of to the road and drifted into the fog line and hit McAnulty.

Groh ordered Murray to pay a $1,000 fine and to serve one year in Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, but he will be credited for the year he already spent in jail for his 2005 conviction.

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