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Craig Michael Wood will be tried in Greene County by a Platte County jury

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good afternoon:

Due to substantial prejudicial pretrial publicity, Judge Dan Conklin granted a defense motion for a change of venue last week in the Craig Michael Wood case. Wood is charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield, Missouri last February. Prosecuting attorney Dan Patterson has filed a notice that he will seek the death penalty, if the jury convicts him.

Instead of moving the trial out of Springfield, which is in Greene County, Judge Conklin is going to try the case in Springfield with jurors from Platte County, which is just north of Kansas City. The defense and prosecution jointly proposed Platte County and Judge Conklin agreed to their proposal.

Platte County is one of the fastest growing areas in the metropolitan Kansas City area.

As Crane says, he could be tried on Mars with a Moon County jury and the result would be the same.

Ozarks First reports:

Several other motions were discussed at the hearing– all of which pertained to protective orders of evidence. This evidence includes autopsy photos, a purple folder with photos of four middle school students, pornographic writings with names matching two of those students, and child pornography.

“The protective order would restrict the defense to using the evidence only for this trial and only to share with individuals essential to trial preparation. With regard to any experts witnesses that are hired, they’d be informed that they are bound by the same order and they would be restricted from further duplicating or distributing the materials,” said Dan Patterson, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney.

The order would also prohibit Wood from possessing the evidence– permitting him to view it only in the presence of his legal team.

Orders like these are standard operating procedure in high publicity death penalty trials.

Wood has also been ordered to provide a handwriting exemplar to determine whether he can be identified as the author of some hand written pornographic stories that were seized by police when they searched his house.

The Fifth Amendment applies only to testimonial evidence, which is defined as a “written or oral assertion offered as proof of truth in court. Includes hearsay and testimony.”

Handwriting is not testimonial evidence, so it is not protected by the Fifth Amendment.

He could refuse to supply a handwriting exemplar since a person cannot be physically forced to provide one, but if he does, his refusal would be admissible at trial against him. The wise choice in these circumstances, even if the likely conclusion will be that the defendant wrote the stories, is to provide the exemplar and retain an expert to challenge the scientific basis for graphology, assuming the evidence cannot be excluded by arguing that it is irrelevant or if it’s relevant, its prejudicial value outweighs its probative value.

We know nothing about the content of these stories, except that they allegedly contain child pornography.

If you were the judge, would you allow the jury to read the stories?

What factors would you consider in determining whether to admit or exclude the evidence?

Hints: Evidence rules 401, 402, 403, 404(b) and 702.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.