A Monongalia County Circuit Court judge recently denied a teenage murder suspect’s bail request. Sheila Eddy, 17 years old, will remain in a juvenile detention center until next year, when her trial begins.
Eddy is accused of the premeditated murder of her former best friend. During the summer of 2012, Eddy and another teenager, Rachel Shoaf, allegedly conspired to lure their 16-year-old friend out of her Star City apartment and then allegedly stabbed her. Their motives remain unknown, other than that Eddy no longer wanted to be friends with the victim. However, after police had been searching for her for four months, Shoaf allegedly broke down in January 2013 and confessed, pointing police to where the body was buried.
Eddy was then charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Eddy’s criminal defense attorney, Michael Benninger, is attempting to change the venue of the trial, claiming to have ample evidence that Eddy cannot get a fair trial in Morgantown. Benninger believes that the publicity surrounding the case has essentially tainted the pool of potential jurors. He also seeks to have Shoaf’s confession suppressed. Shoaf pled guilty to second-degree murder and is currently awaiting sentencing.
Benninger is also trying to have Eddy released from juvenile detention and placed in home confinement, with 24-hour monitoring until the trial, claiming that she is no threat to the community. However, Benninger’s request was opposed by the Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney, Marcia Ashdown, who stated that Eddy was charged with “the most serious offenses” any defendant could face in that jurisdiction.
Eddy may also face charges in the jurisdiction of Wayne Township, Pennsylvania, where the murder allegedly took place, just across the state line.
It is a difficult and, no doubt, emotionally charged situation. The Sixth Amendment of our Constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial, yet that is not always easy to achieve in practice. Finding a jury that will not be biased can be a challenge for a West Virginia criminal defense attorney. He or she must be vigilant during the “voire dire” stage — the stage where both the prosecution and defense question potential jurors about their backgrounds and potential biases. Attorneys frequently reject certain jurors whose answers would work against their position, even if the potential jurors swear that they would be unbiased and even if they seem to be good candidates otherwise. An attorney may question potential jurors directly, and/or use lists of questions to get juror answers (it is thought that jurors are more honest on questionnaires, when their answers are not in the spotlight).
A majority of cases do not even reach the voire dire stage because they are usually settled before trial. Often the prosecutor and the criminal defense attorney will reach a plea bargaining deal, whereby the suspect pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. Such deals can only be made with the suspect’s approval.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.