HUNTINGTON — A trial date for a man accused of shooting a youth football coach at a Huntington gas station in 2017 has been pushed back after his attorney said Tuesday he plans to seek the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals’ input on a Cabell County judge’s rulings in not allowing an expert witness to testify.
Antwon Starkey, 32, was charged with murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the death of KaFrederick “Bae Bae” McEachin, 25. Starkey is accused of shooting McEachin on Dec. 12, 2017, at Huntington Mart on Hal Greer Boulevard in broad daylight.
In an interview with police after the shooting, Starkey said he had shot McEachin after he heard the victim was connected with the shooting of his 14-year-old stepdaughter two weeks prior, according to criminal complaints. Starkey’s attorneys added that the defendant believed McEachin had also targeted both Starkey and his wife.
For the past year, attorneys have been debating about a defense expert testifying to Starkey’s state of mind, provocation and what a “reasonable person” would have done in the situation he thought he was in.
During a hearing Tuesday, defense attorney Abe Saad argued Cabell Circuit Judge Gregory Howard had twice reversed decisions that had originally given him full access to detective notes and would allow an expert witness to testify regarding Starkey’s state of mind at the time of the slaying and whether the previous shooting provoked him to shoot McEachin.
Orders issued by the court reflect that a redacted version of the detective notes had been turned over to the defense and that the expert would not be allowed to testify, Saad said. Howard said he had wrestled with the decisions for a long time to try to keep a fair trial for both sides and did not issue signed orders until the final decision had been made.
Saad said he could let the detective notes situation slide, but the expert witness’s testimony was important to his case.
Howard said he did not recall there being a change of position in the release of the detective notes.
“What I do recall is allowing the defense to have those notes, which I wrestled with that decision to some degree, but ultimately erred on the side of allowing the defendant to have them, but also doing some mild redaction,” Howard said.
Assistant prosecutor Sharon Frazier said she opposed even a redacted report being released.
“There are a lot of names in there, and if Mr. Starkey killed (McEachin) because he was involved in the shooting, it has names in there of others who could have been involved who were not (McEachin), and that’s basically a hit list for Mr. Starkey, if you go by his defense.”
Howard said he did not hear any objection to barring the expert witness from testifying until about 30 days after the order was issued.
“Obviously the defense will argue provocation, and that is certainly within their right,” he said. “But to have an expert say that — my ultimate decision is that that’s not appropriate and it does step into the jury’s (duty).”
Although Starkey was set to go to trial the last week of October, it has now been pushed back until Feb. 10 to give Saad and his co-counsel, Todd Meadows, time to familiarize themselves with the case and to appeal Howard’s rulings to the Supreme Court.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.