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Supreme Court rejects appeal of 1991 murder

By Staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge did not err in accepting a first-degree murder plea for a man who admitted to beating and strangling another man to death with his shoelace, the state Supreme Court has found.

John Alan Boyce pleaded guilty in 1992 to first-degree murder charges linked to the death of Frank Stafford, of Loudendale. Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles E. King heard the case.

The year before, Boyce and another man, Doug Jones, got into an argument with Stafford and beat him before shoving him into the trunk of Boyce's car. The men then drove the car to a four-wheeling trail, where Boyce strangled Stafford with a shoelace, prosecutors said at the time.

Boyce argued that his plea should have been thrown out because a judge found several years later that police had lacked probable cause to arrest Jones, who was tried and convicted of second-degree murder, at the time of the deadly assault.

Boyce said he should have been informed of Jones' illegal arrest at the time he entered his plea.

In a ruling released Thursday, Supreme Court justices pointed out that Judge King spent more than an hour with Boyce, going over the ramifications of the plea.

"To require that a criminal defendant must be informed of all possible bases upon which a codefendant's case may later be overturned on appeal before a guilty plea may be accepted would serve as a serious disincentive to the state offering plea agreements and trial courts accepting guilty pleas," according to the decision.


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