The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 9, 2013

West Virginia judge blocks juvenile testimony in Ohio rape trial


Associated Press

— A West Virginia judge has rejected requests that three juveniles be called to testify at the Ohio trial of two high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, a decision one defense attorney says puts his client in “a tough situation.”

The juveniles’ testimony was expected to bolster the players’ defense against charges that they attacked the alleged victim, who is from West Virginia.

No legal case was cited from anywhere in the country to support the argument that the three West Virginia juveniles can be compelled to testify in Ohio, Hancock County Judge Ronald Wilson ruled Wednesday in an order obtained by The Associated Press.

Ohio and West Virginia law is different for a juvenile delinquency hearing compared to a criminal trial, Wilson said in the four-page ruling.

“The proceeding in Ohio is not a criminal action — it is not a criminal prosecution — and it is not a criminal proceeding,” Wilson wrote.

“A trial judge follows the law — he does not make it,” Wilson added. No law his court follows gives him the right to honor the request for the subpoenas, he said.

The two players go on trial Wednesday in Jefferson County juvenile court in Steubenville on charges they attacked the girl after an alcohol-fueled party last August. Their attorneys have denied the charges.

The request for the subpoenas came through Ohio Judge Thomas Lipps, after defense attorneys filed motions with him asking that the three witnesses appear at the trial. Nothing in the court ruling indicates what the juveniles would testify about.

The juveniles’ expected testimony and knowledge was “material” to the Ohio case, Wilson’s ruling said.

The lawyer representing defendant Trent Mays said the West Virginia witnesses are trying to avoid testifying. Attorney Brian Duncan said they have refused to speak to defense investigators.

Dozens of witnesses for both sides are expected to testify at the trial. Their testimony is considered crucial because the girl was severely intoxicated that night and appeared to be passed out at times, according to several witnesses, and is not expected to testify herself.