Reprinted from Hurherald. Many thanks to Bob. Emphasis added by Calhoun Underground Editors.
By Bob Weaver
Defense attorneys are claiming that “illegal contact with four male jurors” by a Calhoun State Policeman has tainted the Jackson County re-trial of Ronnie Rush.
Rush, 21, has now been tried twice and been found guilty twice for double homicide among other charges. He was first charged when he was 16 in 2003.
Rush was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder by a Calhoun jury in December, 2004 for the brutal slaying of Ward Groves, 69, and Mary Hicks, 60, but the WV Supreme Court ordered a re-trial because the West Virginia State Police in Grantsville botched the case.
Defense attorney Teresa Monk, in a motion filed November 21st, is asking to set aside the most recent verdict and grant a new trial, saying that “Cpl. Doug Starcher had illegal contact with four male jurors,” during a lunch break outside the Jackson County courthouse.
Monk says “It is simply a matter of following the law and giving Mr. Rush a fair trail.”
Also in the motion, Monk indicates there are other problems with the jury, writing “Counsel has reason to believe that other juror misconduct took place.”
Judge Thomas Evans III, after interviewing the four jurors, dismissed two because of conversations the men had with Cpl. Starcher regarding mutual acquaintances in the WV State Police, with the trial then continuing.
During the interviews, some of the four jurors indicated they engaged in small-talk about WVU football and deer hunting, but did not directly discuss the case.
The conversations between the officer and some of the jurors lasted about 15 minutes.
Attorney Monk says one of the two remaining “tainted jurors” consequently became the jury foreman.
Monk said if she and defense attorney Holmes had engaged the jurors in such a matter, the case would have likely come to a halt.