The prosecution in the case requested that their written response to one of the defense’s motions be ‘sealed’ on Wednesday during a pretrial meeting.
Commonwealth attorneys requested the court to ‘seal’ their response to a bill of particulars motion, which was filed last week by the defense. A bill of particulars is a motion that asks the prosecution for the grounds upon which they contend the defendant is guilty of capital murder.
Circuit Court Judge Brett Geisler informed the prosecution that although he will grant this particular motion to have certain documents sealed it does not mean that he will do so with other motions in the future.
Grayson County Commonwealth Attorney Douglas Vaught explained why he thought it was necessary to request that their response should be sealed.
“It is possible that the widespread dissemination of matters of evidence discoverable by the defendant could ‘infect’ or prejudice our jury pool making it harder to seat a jury in Grayson County,” Vaught said. “The responses contain proffers of evidence and theories on that evidence which may or may not be ultimately introduced into evidence at trial and I do not want honest mistakes in understanding of the system to cause problems with jury selection.”
Vaught said it was his goal for the case to a ‘clean trial’ and did not want to try it in the media or public opinion and then again at trial.
“Things the jury is not allowed to hear are not things the media should been allowed to spread in print or broadcast, possibly tainting the pool of jurors.”
Two other motions filed by Hammer’s capital defense team last week were also reviewed during the brief pretrial meeting.
Last week, defense attorney Steve Milani said that the defense had filed for a motion of discovery which asks for the state prosecutors to disclose any evidence or information that they had obtained during the investigation.
Members of the Southwest Virginia Capital Defense team acknowledged that the prosecution had in fact cooperated with the sharing of evidence that has been obtained and stated how Vaught had done “a good job of providing information.”
A written response to the defense’s motion that questions the constitutionality of the death penalty was submitted to Judge Geisler as well. The defense also submitted an expense report that outlined expenditures incurred during their trips to Pennsylvania for interviews.
Following the submission of the prosecution’s responses to filed motions, Judge Geisler asked both legal teams to compile an order that reflects an agreement over the motions that were filed and responded to.
The court will reconvene on March 11 to further discuss the filed motions and a trial date may be set at that time.