JUDGE: Murder suspect’s drug conviction stands
HUNTINGTON — A murder suspect facing life in prison after he was convicted of his “third-strike” drug offense was in court Thursday morning seeking to have that conviction overturned because of issues with the jury, according to his defense attorney.
Joshua Dwayne Plante, 27, of Huntington, who is charged with murder in the June 20, 2016, shooting death of Morrell Deshawn Paschell, 21, of Huntington, was convicted of possession with intent to deliver by a jury after an August trial. It took the jury several hours to reach a verdict, and the jury raised several questions during deliberation.
Plante’s conviction came after he was found to be in possession of three grams of heroin when he was arrested outside his Olive Street home the day Paschell was found dead.
Defense attorney Courtenay Craig alleged Thursday that jury misconduct had taken place during the trial, accordtacted the family and Craiging to jurors who had con directly. One juror’s spouse allegedly told Craig he had “no idea how close he came” to the jury deciding not guilty. Another juror admitted after the trial to knowing Plante’s
family and alleged to family members that misconduct occurred during proceedings. Craig made a motion to overturn the conviction.
Assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham said Craig’s argument raised appeal or habeas issues and had no merit in the sentencing or recidivism phases.
It would also be difficult for Craig to prove his allegations, he said.
Cabell County Circuit Judge Dan O’Hanlon denied the motion to overturn the conviction, saying he saw no evidence of jury misconduct, and set a recidivism hearing for Dec. 4.
After his conviction, prosecutors filed a recidivism charge, which can be filed when a defendant has three violent or drug offenses on their record. The conviction was Plante’s third, with the previous two convictions coming on drug and weapons charges, and could land him a life sentence behind bars.
Herald-Dispatch reporter Courtney Hessler contributed to this story.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.