Attorney alleges improper jury action
HUNTINGTON — A Huntington attorney is alleging jury misconduct after his client, a murder suspect, was convicted of a drug charge that could land him a life sentence behind bars.
Joshua Dwayne Plante, 27, 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. It took the jury several hours to reach a verdict, and the jury raised several questions during deliberation.
After his conviction, prosecutors filed a recidivism charge, which can be filed when a defendant has three violent or drug offenses on their record. The conviction was Plante’s third, with the previous two convictions coming on drug and weapons charges.
However, defense attorney Courtenay Craig alleged Tuesday that jury misconduct had taken place during the trial, according to jurors who had contacted the family and Craig directly.
One juror’s spouse told Craig he had “no idea how close he came” to the jury deciding not guilty. Another juror admitted after the trial to knowing Plante’s family and alleged to family members that misconduct occurred during proceedings.
“They went back without a lesser included instruction,” Craig said. “Despite a majority of the jury believing my client was not in possession with intent to deliver, they went ahead and convicted him because there wasn’t an alternative they were satisfied with.”
Had the jury been able to receive an
instruction for a lesser included charge, its members could have convicted Plante of possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.
Assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham said Craig’s argument raised appeal or habeas issues and had no merit in the sentencing or recidivism phases. It would also be difficult for Craig to prove his allegations, he said.
Planters conviction came after he was found to be in possession of 3 grams of heroin when he was arrested outside his Olive Street home the day Paschell was found dead. Craig said Plante possessed the drug for personal use due to a drug dependence issue and had not intended to sell the drug.
After he was found to possess drugs, police got a warrant to search his home, which was rented by his sister, Shaina Renae Plante, who also was charged.
Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell previously ruled the drug charge must be tried separately from the murder allegations so as not to connect Shaina Plante to the killing.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.