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Trial delayed after post on Facebook

A jury trial in Halifax County Circuit Court for John Phillip Martin, accused of attempted capital murder and related charges stemming from a police chase in October 2011, has been continued, according to court records.

The trial for the 34-year-old Scottsburg resident was due to start Wednesday, but the court delayed the trial one day in order for Martin’s counsel, which had just been hired weeks ago, to better prepare for the case, according to Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Freshour.

The court continued the trial Thursday morning after it was made aware of a Facebook posting that seemed to indicate some of potential jurors might not be impartial, Freshour explained.

“On Thursday, just before jury selection began, the court was made aware of a posting on Facebook that seemed to indicate that some of the potential jurors might not be impartial,” Freshour said in a statement late Thursday.

“The post was in response to someone indicating the trial was to start on Wednesday morning and hoping that justice would be done.”

That by itself would not appear to cause a question regarding juror impartiality, Freshour said.

“However, someone posted in response that he/she had spoken to some potential jurors, and that the poster believed those individuals would make sure justice was done,” the commonwealth’s attorney continued.

“The court determined that this gave the appearance that the defendant may not receive a fair trial as some potential jurors may have made a decision about the outcome of the case before hearing any evidence.

“The appearance of impropriety resulted in the court continuing the matter to a date in the future with another jury pool.”

“I am very disappointed that this trial had to be continued, especially for this reason,” Freshour said.

“However, it is important that each and every defendant is afforded a fair trial.

“Unfortunately, it has become increasingly common for social media to impose its presence in the courts resulting in mistrials and continuances in many jurisdictions in the commonwealth.”

 

Other court case

In a case heard last Tuesday, Steven Lee Brooks, 31, of South Boston was convicted of a charge for failing to register as a sex offender. 

Sentencing for Brooks was continued to a date in the January court term.