Attorney requests evidence be blocked
HUNTINGTON — An attorney representing a man who was in a vehicle that crashed near a Ritter Park playground asked a Cabell County magistrate to block prosecutors from introducing evidence or calling witnesses during trial, citing a “blatant violation of the discovery rule.”
If the request is granted, an assistant prosecuting attorney said the case would have to be dismissed because there will not be evidence to present.
Cabell County Magistrate Johnny McCallister said he would consider the request and announce his ruling during his next trial docket, which is seven weeks away.
Bradley Stephen Wyrick, 33, of Huntington, went before McCallister for a bench trial Thursday, accused of misdemeanor charges of permitting DUI and possession of a controlled substance in a July 2018 crash.
His co-defendant, Tabitha Wyrick, 34, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence in October 2018 and was sentenced to serve six months. She is serving that sentence at Western Regional Jail in Barboursville. Charges against her for assault and reckless driving were dismissed.
The Wyricks were accused of overdosing July 30 while inside a vehicle in a Ritter Park parking lot, which caused the vehicle to crash into a light post in the playground area. While no physical injuries were reported by parents and children, those who witnessed the crash were offered therapy to help with possible emotional issues caused by it.
Assistant public defender Gerald Henderson, who represents Bradley Wyrick, said Prosecuting Attorney Sean “Corky” Hammers failed to follow a magistrate court rule requiring discovery evidence be disclosed within 21 days of Thursday’s scheduled trial.
Bradley Wyrick’s bench trial originally was set for Nov. 29, but the prosecutor’s office also did not provide evidence that would be introduced or a list of witnesses that would testify, Henderson said. That case was granted a continuance after Huntington Police Cpl. Joey Koher, the investigating officer, did not show up.
Henderson argued that continuance was also improperly granted because it violated another magistrate court rule requiring requests for continuances be submitted in writing 10 days before a scheduled trial. He said the prosecution’s reasoning for requesting the motion of continuance, because Koher did not show up, was not sufficient enough to grant the motion.
After that continuance was granted, the court ordered evidence be turned over to the defense by Dec. 20. Henderson filed a motion Monday requesting to block evidence and witnesses for Thursday’s scheduled trial because prosecutors did not meet that deadline.
“It bothers me they don’t believe the laws apply to them, they don’t believe the rules apply to them and... apparently they don’t believe the orders of this court applies to them,” he said. “That is troubling.”
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Charles Peoples, who was filling in for Hammers on Thursday, said he could not dispute Henderson’s statements and could not find proof of his office’s response to the request for discovery.
“I’m torn between a possible outcome favorable to the defendant, based upon Mr. Henderson’s argument, or just the state dismissing the case altogether right now without prejudice so it can be refiled at a later date,” Peoples said.
Henderson said it would be improper to introduce a new complaint, should the case be dismissed without prejudice, because new charges must be introduced within 120 days of the original charges. That 120-day deadline expired Thursday, Henderson said.
McCallister said it is the first time in his career being presented a case like this and he appreciated Henderson’s attention to rules and procedures.
“It’s refreshing that somebody has taken this and is making it an issue,” McCallister said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever had this.”
The case against the Wyricks received extensive local media coverage and caused several community members, West Virginia legislators and Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District, to speak out for laws they believe would better protect children.
The crash inspired local lawmakers to draft legislation to increase penalties for drug crimes near places where children are, which is currently just limited to schools. Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell; and Delegates Chad Lovejoy, D-Ca-bell; and Matt Rohrbach, R-Ca-bell, said they were working on legislation to be introduced at the start of the January legislative session. All other local legislators have agreed to support the measure.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD. Travis Crum Is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch and may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.