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St. Albans man could face additional prison time under 'three strikes' laws

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A St. Albans man convicted earlier this year of shooting another man execution-style in North Charleston may face additional prison time for previous convictions under state "three-strikes" laws.

In a trial that began Monday, Kanawha County prosecutors are trying to prove that Garland Murray, whom a jury found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and burglary charges in the shooting of Gregory Poole, was previously convicted of unrelated but violent crimes in the past 14 years.

In the Poole slaying, the jury recommended mercy, which would make him eligible for parole after serving 15 years of a life sentence. Prosecutors invoked a state recidivism law that would expand Murray's sentencing range on the kidnapping charges to life in prison if a jury finds that he has other convictions, Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said.

The recidivism statute generally applies only to serious drug offenses and violent crimes, Akers said.

"What this does is act as a sentencing enhancement for the latest crimes he is convicted of," Akers said. "It was just time to make sure he could not commit crimes on people in West Virginia any more."

The recidivism statute holds that Murray also will be eligible for parole after 15 years on the kidnapping charge. If Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles E. King decides to run the kidnapping and murder sentences consecutively, Murray will spend a minimum of 30 years in prison before he is able to appear before a parole board, Akers said.

Akers said Murray was convicted of robbery in 1998 and firearm possession and wanton endangerment charges in 2003. She said that in most recidivism trials, the only genuine issue of dispute is whether prosecutors have accused the correct person of actually being convicted of the past crimes.

"The reason you don't see [recidivism trials] a lot is because there's not much to defend," she said.

Murray's lawyer, Thompson Price, did not immediately return a phone call placed late Monday afternoon. Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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