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Attorney requests change of venue in Hoard case

KINGWOOD — A decision on whether to allow research in the Aaron Glenn Hoard case will be announced in 10 days.

  Hoard, 34, of Morgantown, is charged with first-degree murder in the November 2019 shooting death of Grant Felton Jr., 38, of Terra Alta, outside Shorthorns Saloon in Terra Alta.

Hoard’s attorney Belinda Haynie said she plans to request a change of venue for the trial, which is now scheduled for May 5.

“The burden to prove good cause for a change of venue is on the defense,” she said.  

Haynie told the court Orion Strategies, a company that does polling and research, found 29,459 social  media  references  about the case.

 “Those are just the public posts. I can’t see private posts on Facebook,” she said. “This case is widely discussed.”

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Megan Fields said there was no way to prove all of the posts were from people who lived in Preston County.

  Circuit Judge Stephen Shaffer asked Haynie how many times in the  history of Preston County a survey had been allowed by the court.

Haynie said she didn’t know, but cited a Mon County case,  State vs. Rodney Doman, and a trial in northern West Virginia, the U.S. vs. Banks.

   “There’s been considerable talk about Facebook,” Fields said. “There’s no evidence these are people living in the county or who are in the jury pool. Just because someone is posting (on Facebook) doesn’t mean they live in Preston County, or if it’s just a small amount of people doing a lot of posts.”

Haynie said there was also a public display in Terra Alta that said, “We Stand with the Feltons.”

She said the display and Facebook and media posts caused negative sentiment toward her client. 

“We tried a case in October where the same type of display was in Masontown, and it has a larger population than Terra Alta,” Fields said.

“I’m going to hold my decision in abeyance and issue an order within 10 days,”  Shaffer said about the survey.

He set polling for the jury  for noon April 29.     

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