Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Trial set for sheriff's alleged shooter

The Associated Press

        SOMERSET - The first of three men charged in the murder of Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron is scheduled to stand trial March 3.

        Judge Paul Braden set the trial date Monday for Danny Shelley, the alleged triggerman in the April 13 shooting at a political rally where Sheriff Catron was campaigning for his fifth term.

        Neither defense attorneys nor prosecutors have asked for a change of venue. Mr. Braden said he would try to seat a jury in Pulaski County, where Sheriff Catron hadn't lost an election in 18 years.

        “Most people will have heard about the case, but the standard is: Can they be impartial and fair?” said Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery. “We'll have to see how many people have already formed opinions.”

        Mr. Montgomery said he was a little surprised Mr. Shelley, 30, isn't seeking to have the trial moved to another county. Defense attorney Mark Stanziano said if an impartial jury can't be seated here, he said the trial will have to be moved.

        “It seems to us we're better off staying here,” Mr. Stanziano said. “I can't go into why we're better off here.”

        Sheriff Catron, 48, was shot minutes after delivering a re-election speech at a political rally and fish fry at a volunteer fire department. He was struck in the head by a bullet fired from a nearby hillside.

        Investigators say the killing was the culmination of a plot orchestrated by a political challenger and a supporter of Sheriff Catron's opponent in hopes of getting the heavily favored sheriff out of the race.

        Candidate Jeff Morris, 34, and campaign helper Kenneth White, 54, were arrested on charges of complicity to murder a police officer.

        Mr. Shelley, who was unemployed and had a record of arrests including public drunkenness and assault, was arrested when he lost control of a motorcycle that witnesses saw speeding away from the shooting scene. The motorcycle belonged to Mr. Morris.

        Mr. Braden said if he is unable to seat an impartial jury in Pulaski County, he will reschedule the trial for July 7 in another county that would be selected later.

        “I'm looking at two or three different locations,” the judge said.

        No trial dates have been set for Mr. Morris or Mr. White. Mr. Montgomery said he is doubtful that all three of the men will be tried by the end of next year.

        Mr. Morris has changed attorneys. His original lawyers, Bobby H. Richardson and Robert M. Alexander, both of Glasgow, asked to be relieved, citing irreconcilable differences with their client regarding defense strategy. Mr. Braden said Williamsburg attorney Jane Butcher has agreed to represent Mr. Morris.


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- Trial set for sheriff's alleged shooter