A married couple from Hiltons, Virginia, were recently indicted in Scott County on grand larceny charges. The grand jury charged both the 34-year-old man and his 34-year-old wife of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, as well as grand larceny itself. A prosecutor claimed that they carried out the theft of a garden tiller from a house in their home town and later sold it. The tiller was reportedly a “horse-powered garden” model.
The prosecutor, in an interview with the media, claimed that the couple was also being investigated for purportedly having illegally brought drugs into court. Specifically, the prosecutor asserted that the wife had smuggled painkillers into the courtroom to give to her husband during a hearing on an unrelated charge. The prosecutor did admit, however, that no lab test results had yet been received on the materials seized in the courtroom.
Such publicity about unrelated matters could easily poison a jury pool on the currently pending charges, making it difficult to seat an impartial jury that has not already formed an opinion in the case as required for a fair trial. Information like this given to the press does not have to pass tests of reliability and admissibility required to introduce evidence in court at trial, nor is it vetted for its possible relevance to the issues at hand.
Criminal defense attorneys play a vital role in helping to challenge jurors who might exhibit possible bias. In addition, they remind jurors who are seated that everyone accused of a crime is constitutionally entitled to a presumption of innocence until the prosecutor can meet a heavy burden of proving every element of the supposed crime with proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense attorney strives to keep the judge and jury focused on the issues at hand in the immediate case rather than on other extraneous matters.
timesnews.net, “Hiltons couple indicted in tiller theft” Wes Bunch, Dec. 14, 2013