Cops and Courts

Kuretza trial continued until July

The jury trial for Monongalia County Sheriff’s Deputy Lance Kuretza, which had previously been scheduled for this week, is continued until July 10. This is the fourth time the trial schedule has been amended or continued since he was indicted in August 2022. 

According to an order by United States District Court Chief Judge Thomas S. Kleeh, a joint motion to continue to the proceedings was filed by attorneys to provide time to mail a jury questionnaire to the jury pool and receive and review the responses. 

In the order, Kleeh explained the court is given discretion to continue jury trials and, in this case, the court found it prudent “to continue the trial to allow time to mail the juror questionnaires,” per the parties’ request. 

In the motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Wagner for the Northern District of West Virginia and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and defense attorney Lyle Dresbold of Shrager Defense Attorneys in Pittsburgh claim that oral voir dire (questioning) only goes so far in identifying potential juror bias in these kinds of cases because many people are uncomfortable sharing their views on such sensitive subjects in front of others who may have opposing viewpoints. 

The attorneys stated that a jury questionnaire will “aid the parties and the court in addressing this problem by giving potential jurors time and space to thoughtfully reflect on tough questions and to answer them candidly and completely.” 

Jury questionnaires are not uncommon in color-of-law cases to better enable the court and parties to select an impartial jury able to deliver a verdict based solely on the law and the evidence. 

Judge Kleeh said in the order that the ends of justice served by continuing the trial “outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial” and “failure to continue the trial would be likely to result in a miscarriage of justice.” 

Kuretza is accused of depriving an individual of his civil rights by using excessive force and then submitting a false report to cover it up in January 2018. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2022, after which he was placed on leave by the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department. 

According to the indictment, while on duty, Kuretza subjected the victim to excessive force by punching and elbowing him in the face and, after the victim was handcuffed, spraying him with pepper spray and striking him. The offense resulted in bodily injury and included the use of a dangerous weapon.  

The indictment further alleges that Kuretza falsified his use of force report by claiming he used pepper spray before the victim was handcuffed, and by omitting any documentation of post-handcuffing force. 

Kuretza’s attorney Lyle Dresbold said he was unable to comment on the case at this time but did say he expected the trial to proceed on July 10 as currently scheduled.