CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Charleston man who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the 2008 death of a former Marshall University football player will get a new trial because of a judge's "improper interference" with the testimony of a witness, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Jerel Addison Garner was convicted in 2010 of voluntary manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of Dante Newsome after a six-day jury trial in Cabell County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Newsome was shot outside a Huntington nightclub in 2008.
Garner told police after the incident that he was acting in self-defense, according to his attorney, Jesse Forbes.
The case was reversed based on "the court's improper interference" with the cross examination of a key witness, Ivan Clark, who allegedly shot at Garner, wounding him three times.
Retired Senior Status Cabell Circuit Judge L.D. Egnor presided over the trial on the day the cross examination of Clark took place, Forbes said.
The Supreme Court appointed Egnor when Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson had to step away from the trial for medical reasons.
While defense attorneys were questioning Clark, Egnor interrupted and told Garner's attorneys to meet with prosecutors and Clark to prepare the rest of their questions.
"I am going to take a five-, 10-minute recess and ask you to prepare questions for your witness," Egnor said during the trial, according to the unsigned opinion.
"Have them prepared. Have him address those questions to you so that you will be expecting those answers and get them straight."
Bill Forbes, who also represents Garner, told Egnor that he thought his client's rights to a fair trial were being denied, according to the opinion.
Prosecutors responded to Garner's appeal, saying Egnor was "simply frustrated with defense counsel's somewhat rambling cross-examination of Clark."
However, Supreme Court justices found that Egnor's "bizarre demand … without question, deprived Mr. Garner of his constitutional right to an effective cross-examination of a key witness."
Jesse Forbes pointed out that his client will only be tried again on the charges he was convicted of -- voluntary manslaughter, wanton endangerment and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
"A jury previously found him not guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder and we're looking forward to showing that he's not guilty of the remaining counts," Jesse Forbes said. "We are extremely pleased with the Supreme Court's decision that allows him to put on his defense as he should be allowed to."
Garner appealed to the Supreme Court on numerous other issues, but justices found the right to effective cross-examination was reason enough to grant him a new trial without addressing the other claims.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.