‘Third-strike’ life sentence too long for drug crime, Plante’s attorney says

December 5, 2018

HUNTINGTON — A Huntington attorney is working to keep a murder suspect from being sentenced to life in prison after a drug conviction earlier this year led to prosecutors filing paperwork for a sentence enhancement based on the state’s “third-strike” rule.

Joshua Dwayne Plante, 28, of Huntington, who is charged with murder in the June 20, 2016, shooting death of Morrell Deshawn Paschell, 21, of Huntington, was convicted of possession with intent to deliver by a jury after an August trial. The conviction came after he was found to be in possession of three grams of heroin when he was arrested outside his Olive Street home the day Paschell was found dead.

After his conviction assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham filed a lifetime recidivism charge, which can be filed when a defendant has three violent or drug offenses on their record. Plante previously had two convictions involving drugs and weapon sales.

During a hearing before Cabell Circuit Judge Paul Farrell Tuesday, defense attorney Courtenay Craig argued that none of Plante’s convictions were for crimes of a violent nature, thus he could not face a lifetime enhancement on his sentence.

“This is inappropriate and disproportionate based on his conduct in (all the cases),” he said.

However, Fincham argued that guns found in the Olive Street home, outside of which Plante was arrested, could be used by the judge in deciding if the most recent crime was one of violence.

“Whether or not the state charged him with possession of the firearms, we would contend that would be relevant evidence for the court to consider in concluding that this individual was involved in drug trafficking and that the guns were used as part of protecting his drug trafficking operation,” he said.

Farrell asked the two attorneys to file written arguments on the issue and set a return date for Jan. 8 to make a ruling.

Craig previously had requested Plante’s latest conviction be overturned based on alleged jury misconduct, but his request was denied in October by Senior Status Judge Dan O’Hanlon.

Plante still faces a murder charge in the death of Paschell, but waived his right to a speedy trial Tuesday to give Craig time to work on the recidivism charge.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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