Defense Motions Denied in Leftwich Murder Case

From the Beckley Register-Herald:

Note: In the article below, I bolded a quote from Judge Kirkpatrick that immediately stood out to me. He says that the previous blood-alcohol testing that was done for the prosecution was done by the State Medical Examiner’s Office, not by an expert chosen by the prosecution. Well, if you have read any of my prior posts regarding our State Medical Examiner’s office, you would know that the prosecution couldn’t hire a better expert for their side if they had unlimited funds to do so. Being that many things in our state are backwards, the State ME’s Office and the State Crime Lab are basically appendages of the police and prosecutors. When they testify at trial they are trained to slant the evidence and their testimony towards the prosecutors. They are hired guns basically. If anyone contests this, then I will be glad to give examples. The end result is that none of their conclusions can really be trusted without independent testing and independent experts looking over their shoulders. Just “google” the WV State Crime Lab and you will find examples of what I am talking about. – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney.

Leftwich loses bid to suppress evidence

Michelle James
Register-Herald Reporter

A Raleigh County judge Wednesday denied a motion from Thomas Leftwich requesting suppression of a search warrant and the evidence it allowed officers to obtain from the accused police killer’s South Fayette Street home.

Leftwich, charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy in the shooting death of Beckley Police Detective Cpl. Chuck Smith, is scheduled to go to trial March 10.

Defense attorney Mark Hobbs questioned the probable cause for the warrant, the second issued in the hours after Smith’s Aug. 29, 2006, death. That warrant led to the seizure of a numerous items, including a variety of weapons, ammunition, drugs, videotapes and computers.

Raleigh Sheriff’s Detective Cpl. James Canaday, who signed the affidavit for the warrant, and State Police Sgt. Craig Light, who carried out the search, testified as to probable cause during a pre-trial hearing Wednesday.

The officers told the court that items seen while carrying out the first search warrant led them to obtain a second warrant.

Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick denied Hobbs’ motion for suppression, telling him there was probable cause for the second search warrant and adding a second warrant was not actually needed and the officers were simply exercising “extreme restraint and caution.”

Kirkpatrick also issued a pre-trail order intended to determine “pending motions, as well as establish parameters of inquiry of witnesses and remarks of counsel.”

Through the order, Kirkpatrick denied Hobbs’ Feb. 21 motion to be supplied with a sample of Smith’s blood in order for the defense to perform its own testing to determine Smith’s blood-alcohol level at the time of his death.

The order mentioned chief deputy prosecutor Kristen Keller’s assertion that the “BAC of the victim is entirely irrelevant when a defendant claims self-defense.” Also, Kirkpatrick pointed out the previous blood test had been completed by the state medical examiner’s office, not an expert of the state’s choosing.

Kirkpatrick also denied Hobbs’ request to enter as evidence the City of Beckley’s general policy manual for police officers. In the order, Kirkpatrick stated there was no written guideline for policy and procedures for undercover operations and said a general policy manual would have no relevancy.

Also, because speculation became a problem during the trial of Leftwich’s co-defendant, Michael Martin, the order prohibits “sheer speculation concerning supposed motives attributable to the victim.”

Martin was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

The order also states the court will not allow the victim’s character to be “trashed.”

Kirkpatrick’s order permits the defense to inquire about and address testimony pertaining to all activities and events surrounding the shooting.

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