CHARLESTON – The mother of the victim in a 2010 murder said this week she was relieved to find out the state’s high court granted a writ of prohibition by Kanawha County prosecutors against Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.
“Of course, I was happy,” said Margaret Parsons, mother of Jeremy Parsons.
“I felt like she (Webster) was doing her best to let him (David Washington Kinney) go.”
Last week, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals sided with the prosecutor’s office, saying the judge failed to “properly analyze” the factors for sanctions against the State.
The prosecutors argued that Webster, in excluding what they have described as “major evidence” in the murder, had “completely gutted” their case.
“The respondent erred in acting outside her legitimate powers and exceeded her legitimate authority by excluding the shell casings recovered at the scene of the crime and instructing the State of West Virginia to refrain from mentioning or eliciting testimony at trial regarding the shell casings,” Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants’ office wrote in its March 30 petition with the Court.
The casings at issue — 10 mm shells — were found when police arrived at the scene of the murder, at the intersection of Park Avenue and Virginia Street in Charleston July 4, 2010.
When police arrived, the victim, Jeremy Parsons of Poca, was found shot and slumped over in the passenger side of his Cadillac Eldorado. The car then crashed into a barrier near the Sav-A-Lot store.
The defendant, Kinney, was arrested Oct. 22, 2010.
Kinney’s lawyers, in a brief in opposition to the State’s petition filed April 5, argued that Webster acted within her discretionary powers to sanction prosecutors for discovery violations, pursuant to the state’s Rules of Criminal Procedure.
“The State’s discovery violations prejudiced defendant’s ability to prepare for trial, the delay resulting from the discovery violations have prejudiced defendant, and further delay of the case would have further prejudiced defendant,” the lawyers wrote.
“Accordingly, the exclusion of the shell casings was the proper remedy under Rule 16(d)(2) and within the circuit court’s legitimate discretionary powers.”
The state’s high court, in its 18-page ruling, noted that the State’s conduct was “troublesome.”
During their arguments before the Court, prosecutors admitted that their office should be held somewhat responsible for the shell casings being “lost” — or, more accurately, misplaced — at the State Police lab.
But they argued “completely gutting” their case was not the proper sanction.
“Based upon the record before us, we do not agree that the State acted in bad faith in its dealings with the shell casings,” the Court wrote in its June 12 per curiam opinion.
“Through a series of missteps associated with the placement of the victim’s name on the file instead of respondent Kinney’s, the shell casings were not lost but were merely misfiled.”
The Court continued, “Thus, we differ with the circuit court’s finding that the Charleston Police Department and/or the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office’s conduct was intentional and designed to thwart the legitimate discovery requests of respondent Kinney.
“Instead, we believe the conduct was unintentional, and that the State made a reasonable effort to comply with respondent Kinney’s discovery requests.”
In turn, the Court said it was forced to vacate Webster’s order suppressing the evidence.
“We conclude that in order to correct the clear legal error on the part of the respondent judge in suppressing the evidence of the shell casings as well as the ammunition, magazine and firearms seized pursuant to a search warrant, we must grant this writ of prohibition,” it wrote.
“Without this writ, the State, who has no right to appeal a criminal conviction, may otherwise be without a remedy to correct this legal error.”
Margaret Parsons, who now resides in St. Albans, said she not only takes issue with Webster’s general handling of the case, but also some of the judge’s comments.
“She has said things in court to me that I felt were inappropriate,” Parsons said Monday.
At one point, Parsons said Webster turned to Kinney and apologized to him that it has taken so long to clear his name.
She said the judge even made sure she was on the record when she made the comment.
Parsons said Webster also made comments when it came to the shell casings — which, at one point, were sent to England, with two detectives, for evaluation.
“She said in open court — and I’m sitting right there — ‘Tell me who in the world was Jeremy Parsons that he is so important that we spent taxpayer dollars to send a couple of detectives and four shell casings to England?’
“I’m not going to lie to you, I stood up and said, ‘He was a human being. A living, breathing human being. He was my son.’”
Parsons said Webster proceeded to call her a “nobody” and “merely a spectator,” and that if she talked out in court again she would give her “some days.”
On top of that, Parsons said half of the time no one from the court calls to notify her when there is a hearing.
“I wasn’t notified when he (Kinney) was having a bond hearing,” she said. “There are probably three or four hearings that I have not been notified of.”
Parsons said she feels like the case hasn’t been taken seriously by Webster — or detectives and prosecutors — from the very beginning.
“Jeremy was the only child I had,” she said.
A month before his death, Parsons said she was in the hospital in a coma.
“My son never missed a 15-minute visiting period, I was told. Never missed one,” she said, adding how good-natured he was.
“I just feel like this has been bull**** from the very beginning. I think they looked at this as one n***** getting rid of another one,” noting her son’s mixed race.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Parsons said she doubts Webster will be more careful in her handling of the case from this point on.
“I don’t think she’s competent to be a judge,” she said.
Webster, meanwhile, said Monday she can’t comment on the case because it is ongoing.
Last week wasn’t the first time an order by the judge has come under scrutiny by the state’s high court.
Twice this year, the Court has ordered Webster to issue her rulings more quickly.
In February, the Court ordered her to rule on a motion that had been pending since January 2011.
And in April, she was ordered to rule on a petition from a convicted murderer that had been pending since September 2009.