CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The attorney representing a Charleston man charged with murder says it's unethical for police to say his client confessed to the crime before a jury trial.
Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford and Chief Deputy Johnny Rutherford told reporters last week that Charles Eugene March "confessed" to slaying his former co-worker Sheila "Kathy" Goble on April 24, 2010. March was arrested, police said, after human remains were found in his backyard in Chesapeake.
Richard Holicker, a Kanawha County assistant public defender representing March, said it's unethical for police to use terminology that could sway jury opinion during a criminal trial.
"It's a violation of the Rules of Professional Ethics for any prosecutor's office to make that kind of statement," Holicker said.
Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants said he never used the word "confessed" in interviews after March's arrest. But he said it's his office's responsibility to brief police on their phrasing to media.
Plants said he agrees with the State Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides a guideline for trial publicity and forbids prosecutors from casting opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant.
However, Plants said police were only quoting from the criminal complaint filed against March in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.
"We strive for the absolute very best in every case," Plants said. "But here is a case where the law enforcement were repeating information contained in the public record."
According to the criminal complaint, "During the interview of Charles Eugene March he admitted that on April 24, 2010 he strangled Kathy Goble to death."
The criminal complaint said March told deputies he dismembered Goble and buried her remains in his backyard the next day.
Several media outlets ran stories saying March confessed to Goble's death, based on police's statements and the criminal complaint.
Kanawha County Sheriff Lt. Sean Crosier said he stands behind the police's statements of March's guilt and said their phrasing came from the criminal complaint.
"If he didn't confess, we wouldn't say he confessed," Crosier said.
During his arraignment hearing last week, March told Kanawha County Magistrate Ward Harshbarger that he did not want a court-appointed lawyer, and did not intend to hire his own. "I do not need an attorney, sir," he said.
Harshbarger was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Kanawha County Magistrate Kim Aaron said magistrates may move to protect someone's rights by appointing public defenders to represent them.
"You make that effort, and Ward did make an effort," Aaron said. "You just don't know if it will stick or not."
March has a preliminary hearing set for Monday at 1:30 p.m.
Goble, 62, worked with March for about 10 years at Kelley's Men's Shop on Charleston's West Side. Her remains were found one day after the two-year anniversary of her disappearance.
Police and prosecutors have not released a motive. Friends have said Goble and March were not romantically involved.Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.