By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
Eddie Jack Washington will stand trial for the 1974 Windmill Park murders on Nov. 18.
The pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment against Washington for the murders was denied Sept. 19, as were two motions to suppress statements made by Washington in 1978 and 2013.
On Aug. 2, 1974, Marion County residents Junior and Wanda Phillips, and Billy Ray Cobb were found shot execution-style at Windmill Park.
Washington is one of two men indicted for the murders. Phillip Reese Bush was also indicted and is currently serving two life sentences at Mt. Olive Correctional Complex for a double homicide conviction in 1983.
The prosecution and defense had the opportunity to lay out their arguments regarding the pretrial motions in court Aug. 7, Aug. 13 and Aug. 29.
The defense argued that the indictment should be dismissed due to the unnecessary prosecutorial delay, which has resulted in many witnesses for the defense being deceased or missing, making it difficult to establish alternative theories for the case.
In addition, the defense argued that statements given in 1978 and 2013 should be dismissed because the defendant has only achieved a third-grade education and cannot read cursive, and the statements signed by the defendant were written in cursive. The defendant also did not have the mental capacity to waive his Miranda rights, the defense argued.
Circuit Judge Michael Aloi denied the motion to dismiss Washington’s indictment because it is in the interest of public safety to keep keep the “co-defendant incarcerated” which is “a reasonable cause for delay.
“The renewed threat to public safety outweighs any resulting prejudice,” Judge Aloi’s statement said.
The defense has the ability to base alternative theories of the case on more than just witness testimony, and can use statements made by previous investigators regarding alternative theories, which will be given admittance at trial, the statement said.
The motions to suppress statements were also denied. Judge Aloi stated that Washington had Miranda rights explained to him and was given the opportunity to invoke them.
Once he unambiguously invoked his right to silence, questioning ceased, Aloi’s statement said. Whether or not Washington had the ability to make accurate statements when scared is a question for a jury, the statement said.
The defense team of Neal Jay Hamilton and Holly Turkett had sought to dismiss the indictment based on prejudice because of “unnecessary prosecutorial delay.”
Turkett argued that, due to the passing of almost four decades, many witnesses who could offer support for alternative theories for the case are either deceased or cannot be located. Turkett argued that had the state acted in 1974 when these witnesses made their testimony, this would not be the case.
However, assistant prosecuting attorney Nate Chapman said that in order to have the indictment dismissed because of prejudice caused by “unnecessary prosecutorial delay,” the defense team needed to meet certain criteria: first the defense needed to identify specific witnesses and establish that serious attempts had been made to locate them, which they did, then they needed to show that the information potentially available from the witnesses is not available through other sources. This was not so clear, Chapman said.
The defense also sought to suppress statements given by Washington on Aug. 26, 1978 and in February 2013. The 2013 statements were taken when Washington was arrested in Tampa, Fla., by U.S. Marshals Service before he was extradited to West Virginia for the murder indictment.
Testimony by Fairmont psychologist Ronald Pearse and the retired state trooper who interviewed Washington in 1978 were given at the Aug. 13 court hearing. The defense wanted to establish that Washington did not have the proper mental capacity to understand legal proceedings, or to refuse his Miranda rights.
Pearse testified that, after examining and talking with Washington for 2 1/2 hours on July 24, he had established that he had a comprehension index of 58. Anyone under level 70 is considered mentally retarded, Pearse said.
However, Pearse also testified that Washington understands courtroom rules and the consequences of verdicts at the court. Pearse also testified that Washington would be able to understand basic questioning.
Washington was originally scheduled to face trial on Aug. 26, but the trial has since been rescheduled to Nov. 18.
Email Colleen S. Good at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.