Smith-Allen Trial Delayed To December

Primarily a result of COVID-19, the murder trial against Edward Smith-Allen has now been delayed a full year.

Smith-Allen was indicted by a grand jury in October 2019 for the murder of Alaisia M. Smith. On June 7, 2019, Lewisburg police responded to an emergency call, finding a juvenile suffering from a gunshot wound in a vehicle parked in Dorie Miller Park. The Lewisburg Police Department later confirmed Smith was the victim, whose obituary stated she passed away on June 8 while in the care of Charleston Area Medical Center.

Previously, Greenbrier County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dent pushed the trial from the original December 2020 date due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the county. The April trial was again delayed to July when West Virginia’s chief medical examiner informed the prosecution he would not be able to testify due to an ongoing illness. Before the July trial, the case was again pushed back to September for the same reason.

“We became aware, early last week, that Allan Mock, … who performed the autopsy in this case and was identified as the state’s expert witness, had to extend his already existing medical leave that is going to prevent him from offering testimony until after Aug. 30,” said Greenbrier County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via in July. “… We explored the possibility of someone simply substituting for Dr. Mock, but frankly we found it to be impractical.”

Since then, the prosecution has found a substitute for Mock, who may still not be able to testify during a September trial.

“The state is requesting that we find necessary, good cause to continue the case into the October term,” Via said Wednesday. “… Both Dr. Mock, as well as his substitute if he remains unavailable, are both booked by us for that time frame. We are first on the medical examiner’s schedule for that week [in December].”

Similar to when the court agreed to the delay from July to September, Smith-Allen’s defense attorney, Kristopher Faerber, voiced an objection to the continuance.

“I’ve reviewed the facts in regard to the medical examiner and the Harvard COVID map. I understand the conditions there with no contest to that fact. We are still looking for a trial judge. We object to any continuance and continue our demand for a speedy trial on this matter.”

Another matter to be considered was COVID-19. Although cases in the past few months have been taking place in person for the circuit court, the recent emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has brought case numbers back up.

“As of today, on the Harvard COVID map, this circuit is in the red zone, meaning there is an order in place not holding any jury trials or grand juries, and very limited in-person hearings, due to the pandemic. I can’t speak for Sept. 9, but I can speak for today and note that we are at 55.6 [daily new cases per 100,000 people] when you only need a number higher than 25 to be in the red zone.”

Although not in the state’s motion, Via agreed.

“The motion does not speak to the issue of COVID because the court, but it’s own administrative decisions, is dealing with continuances for [many cases as a result of the pandemic]. It would appear that is a secondary cause [for the continuation], or maybe a primary, I don’t know. I fear that it is pretty unlikely at this date that we will be in a position to try the case [in September] because of those issues.”

Dent agreed to push the trial back to December, setting several pretrial hearings before then.

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