BECKLEY, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) Tremaine Jackson’s pretrial and trial dates have been rescheduled following today’s court hearing with Judge Burnside.
Jackson is currently being held at Southern Regional Jail after being charged with murder, conspiracy and felon in possession of a firearm. Jackson was arrested in Aug. of 2020 in connection to the murder of Troy Williams in the Pet Supplies Parking lot in Beckley in May of 2020.
Jackson requested a speedy trial, meaning his trial must be held before the end of this term, which runs from Jan. to May.
A pretrial date was originally set for Jan. 3 but was then postponed to Jan. 25 due to COVID. Brian Parsons is working as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney on the case, with Kris Kostenko as the Defense Attorney.
During today’s hearing, Kostenko made a motion to withdraw from the case, stating that proceeding could put him in a conflict of interest with another one of his clients. He cited articles 1.6 (Confidentiality of Information), 1.7 (Conflict of Interest: Current Clients) and 1.9 (Duties to Former Clients) of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in his argument.
Kostenko offered no explanation as to why he did not check for potential conflicts when he was initially appointed to the case and made a demand for a speedy trial on behalf of his client. Kostenko is an employee of the Raleigh County Public Defender Services Office.
Kostenko reported that a potential witness had made an appearance at the Pet Supplies Parking lot sometime before the murder took place. The defense did not say how or if he was involved, only that he could possibly be called as a witness.
According to Kostenko, the state presented evidence, which he said could implicate his other client, who he has represented in the past and is currently representing in a case unrelated to that of Tremaine Jackson. Kostenko told Judge Burnside that, although the state is not currently looking to charge this individual in connection to the Troy Williams murder, if he is called as a witness in the case, it could possibly lead to him being charged in the future.
If charged, Kostenko said this individual’s case and Jackson’s case would conflict with each other, thereby putting the defense in conflict of interest.
Parsons then took to the podium, opposing the defense’s motion to withdraw on the basis that there were no facts to support said motion.
Parsons identified Kostenko’s client as Kahlich Morris and stated that, although the defense has labeled Morris as a witness, he is no witness at all.
“There is no indication that this man is involved in any way,” Parsons said, adding that he had his investigator speak to Morris, who said that he had no knowledge of the shooting that took place.
“He is not and will never be a witness for the state of West Virginia,” Parsons told Judge Burnside.
Parsons continued, referencing several state cases, which stated that there had to be a present and clear conflict of interest in order to withdraw.
“We don’t have that today, Judge. We have a lot of speculation, if’s, but’s, should’s and could’s. In realistic terms, we have an allegation, and we have a claim, but there’s nothing to support it. No record has been made here today.”
After hearing comments from both the defense and the prosecution, Judge Burnside decided to refuse the motion to withdraw, stating that there is “no factual or evidentiary overlap or commonality” in Morris’ and Jackson’s cases.
“There could not possibly be any exploitation because it doesn’t exist,” Burnside said. “If the witness is called and responds to testify under oath, in this case, no conflict exists.”
Following the motion to withdraw, the prosecution made the motion to continue the trial but reschedule the date so that it could be held within the current term.
Parsons revealed that, in the attempt to get the trial set as promptly as possible, he unknowingly scheduled the trial for a date when his investigator would be out of town on a prepaid, non-refundable trip. Parsons requested to reschedule the trial for a date that wouldn’t conflict with his investigator’s plans but still fell within the term to comply with Jackson’s request for a speedy trial.
Burnside granted the motion to reschedule the trial within the current term, and a new trial date was set for Mar. 1, 2021.
A new pre-trial date was also scheduled for Feb. 10 rather than Jan. 25 to minimize the time between the pretrial and trial.
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