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Judge sets date in murder trial

Jul. 03, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell set a Monday trial date in a first-degree murder case while expressing his dissatisfaction with both prosecution and defense lawyers for being unprepared for trial.

Farrell set jury selection for 9 a.m. Monday for Aaron Alexander Searls, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Larry John Keaton Jr., 45, on Jan. 9, 2012. Keaton was killed as he left a nightclub in the 1500 block of 3rd Avenue. Searls' attorneys claim self-defense, but the lead detective has testified surveillance video and the victim's then-girlfriend will tell another story.

Defense attorneys Abe Saad and Dennis Kelley said three of their witnesses will testify Keaton frequently became violent when he drank alcohol in excess. Assistant prosecutor Lauren Plymale said her side will respond with evidence that Searls resorted to gunfire during a nightclub dispute more than two months earlier.

Both sides need Farrell's blessing to introduce their evidence at trial, but Tuesday he took issue with neither side having filed briefs beforehand to argue their points. The defense lacked specificity as to their witnesses' expected testimony, while he faulted Plymale for having provided inadequate notice of her intention.

Also at issue were next week's scheduled vacation for one of three defense witnesses in question and last-minute concern about the admissibility of Searls' statement to police. Plymale's partner, Kellie Neal, said issues regarding the statement could be heard at a later date.

Farrell quickly responded that such dates are in short supply, reminding both sides of Independence Day, the upcoming weekend and Monday's jury selection. He cited the lack of filed motions saying, "it's hard to practice law when you don't follow the rules."

"See folks, every trial I have we have this same issue of neither the prosecution nor the defense are following any rules," he said. "The standard for any motion is you give the other side notice enough so they have time to respond and the court has time to look at it."

Farrell ruled the vacationing witness, if the defense deems his testimony necessary, must testify at trial. That rejected Saad's request for a pretrial, video-recorded deposition that had been set for Friday.

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