Judge was right to let witness testify, Justices rule

By Steve Korris | Feb 24, 2009

CHARLESTON – A Raleigh County judge properly allowed a witness to testify that he bought Oxycontin pills from a woman, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled.

On Jan. 30, the Justices denied a new trial to Gloria Willett on charges that she possessed more than 3,000 prescription pills with intent to deliver.

Willett served time in prison and remains on parole.

She claimed in her appeal that Raleigh Circuit Judge John Hutchison should have suppressed Alan Reed's testimony, but the Justices disagreed.

"When looking at the evidence in its totality, we are satisfied that the trial court properly admitted Mr. Reed's testimony," they wrote in an unsigned opinion.

In 2005, Beckley police found more than 3,000 prescription pills and $1,000 cash in Willett's home.

Prior to trial, Willett moved to suppress Reed's testimony.

At a hearing on the motion, Reed said he went to Willett's brother to buy drugs. He said her brother told him he didn't have any but his sister did.

He said he was involved in 50 to 100 drug transactions with Willett in two years.

He said she gave him drugs when he brought other customers to her.

He said he cut Willett's lawn twice and she paid him with drugs.

Hutchison denied the suppression motion.

At trial, Reed repeated his story and jurors believed him.

For Willett, Paul Detch of Lewisburg argued on appeal that she couldn't rebut Reed's testimony because Reed didn't remember dates of the transactions.

He pointed out that prosecutors didn't charge her with selling drugs to Reed.

At oral argument on Jan. 13, Justices kept bringing up the 3,000 pills.

Detch told them, "She accumulated these pills for legitimate purposes."

Raleigh County assistant prosecutor Tom Truman said jurors rejected her explanation for the pills. "The jury didn't believe it because it didn't make sense," he said.

It didn't make sense to the Justices.

"Mr. Reed's testimony about the uncharged drug transactions was integrally connected to the criminal activity charged in the indictment," they wrote.

"Evidence of the prior drug sales was necessary to place Mrs. Willett's possession of such a large amount of narcotic prescription pills in context and to complete the story of the charged crimes," they wrote.

Justice Menis Ketchum reserved the right to file a concurring opinion.

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