The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

July 11, 2014

Attorney may continue to represent murder trial defendant

Judge rules out conflict of interest

A Raleigh County judge ruled out a possible conflict of interest and will allow defense attorney David White to continue representing Donald Gray Dunn Jr., who is charged with the first-degree murder of his stepfather and the attempted first-degree murder of his mother.

Dunn, 24, of Stanaford, was arrested in May 2013 and charged with fatally shooting his stepfather, Mark McDermott, 47, and attempting to shoot his mother, Johanna McDermott. Police reported Johanna was not killed because the small-caliber handgun misfired.

Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller filed a motion last month citing a possible conflict of interest when she discovered Johanna McDermott had obtained White to represent her son and was paying his legal fees.

Johanna McDermott is the widow of the deceased, the victim of alleged attempted first-degree murder and will be called as one of the state’s witnesses at trial.

Dunn had initially been assigned a public defender when he reported he was indigent, but upon his incarceration, another inmate suggested White as a defense attorney. Dunn asked his mother to arrange an interview to see if White would take his case.

During a hearing July 1, Johanna McDermott told Keller that most of the money used for White’s attorney’s fees came from selling Dunn’s belongings at a yard sale, but she and other family members had provided some of the money as well.

The payment was a lump sum, in cash, and has already been paid in full, McDermott said.

Keller argued that a defendant has a constitutional right to his or her counsel of choice, but it must also be a “conflict-free” counsel.

White argued that he and Johanna McDermott have no attorney-client relationship, Dunn was actually the one who hired him, and Johanna McDermott understood that she obtained White for her son and not for herself.

Judge John A. Hutchison verbally reported that White can stay on as counsel, but he said additional details will be included in his written order, which has not yet been filed.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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