The Times West Virginian

October 24, 2013

Washington’s trial in Windmill Park murders to begin Nov. 18

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — On. Nov. 18, Eddie Washington is scheduled to stand trial for his alleged role in the triple 1974 Windmill Park homicides.

Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick N. Wilson and defense attorneys Neal J. Hamilton and Holly Turkett appeared Wednesday morning before Marion Circuit Judge Michael Aloi with some last-minute housekeeping motions.

The bodies of Guy Lester Phillips, 20, and his wife, Wanda Jane Phillips, 19, and Billy Ray Cobb, 27, all of Fairmont’s Montgomery Avenue area, were found in the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 1974, at Windmill Park.

Those murders remained unprosecuted until the arrest of Washington earlier this year in Florida. A co-defendant, Phillip Reese Bush, also awaits trial. He is incarcerated at Mount Olive Correctional Complex on a double-murder conviction in 1983.

• Motion to stipulate admissibility of certain pieces of evidence at trial.

Wilson had no objection to seven pieces of evidence, but did have concerns about 12.

• Motion to prohibit Wilson from using testimony Washington gave in a suppression hearing on Aug. 13, 2013.

Turkett said that Wilson had asked questions “outside the scope” of rules of evidence that could subject Washington to cross-examination at trial.

“Mr. Washington gets on the stand and talks about memory or intelligence or lack of memory, and they are all valid pointes to be tested at cross. They put him up there. He is not immunized from that being used to impeach him.”

Aloi said he would hold the motion in abeyance.

• Photographs of the victims in their caskets will not be shown at trial.

• Showing close-range crime scene photos of the three is still in question.

Death certificates of the three can be admitted for cause of death, Turkett said. But showing those photos could prejudice and incite the jury.

Wilson said that state law is becoming more lenient in showing crime scene photos.

“This is part and parcel to our case. This was a homicide. People were killed, and the manner in which they were killed, how they looked, is all relevant.

“They should not be precluded unless they are absolutely, overly horrendously graphic, which they are not. They are pictures of bodies in a field. We’ve heard nothing from the defense why they would prejudice the jury or make them unable to make a rational decision.”

The photos are also “extremely relevant” in case an issue is made of where the murders took place, he said.

Turkett said the state just wants to use them to incite the jury, “they have no probative value ... nothing indicates who pulled the trigger.”

Where the murders took place could become “a critical dispute,” Aloi said.

“The state's theory is that these people were killed at Conley Farm and transported to Windmill Park,” Hamilton said. “If the prosecution is changing from that theory, I need to know.”

“The evidence is what it is,” Wilson said.

“We will raise that issue if and when it comes up,” Aloi said. He said he would review the issue and make a ruling quickly.

• A jury view of key sites in the case will take place after jury selection and before opening arguments.

• A photo array (or lineup) will be suppressed from trial.

• Washington will be permitted to wear nonprison attire and have no visible restraints at the November trial.

• A potential key witness for the defense will be expected to travel from Washington County, Pa., to Fairmont to testify.

The witness, Darrell Corley, suffers from diabetes, heart condition and blindness, and is adamantly opposed to testifying, Hamilton said. He proposed Corley be allowed to give a video deposition.

Aloi denied the request, but said he would consider if Hamilton could give him more medical reasons for the video deposition.

• With three other major murder trials on the docket (Kristyn and Michael Palmer, and Phillip Reese Bush), the jury pool is getting depleted rapidly. And none is black.

Hamilton said that Washington wants to continue to go to trial.

• A special jury questionnaire will not be ordered, although Hamilton may prepare one and submit it to Aloi for review.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.