Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 6, 2014

Click found guilty

WELCH — After deliberating 88 minutes, the jury returned a verdict on both counts in the Earl Click trial on charges related to the July 17, 2012 murder of Dr. Thomas Clark Hatcher, mayor of War.

Click, 27, of Grundy, Va., bent his head toward the defense table as McDowell County Circuit Court Judge Booker T. Stephens read the verdicts. As to the charge of murder in the first degree, the jury returned a verdict of guilty with a recommendation of mercy. When Stephens read the guilty verdict to the charge of felony conspiracy, Click looked up to the ceiling of the old courtroom.

Stephens cautioned the people seated in the gallery to refrain from any outbursts. The defendant’s mother, Tammy Click covered her face, and a young friend seated beside her comforted her by putting her arm around her. Defense counsel Ronald Hassan asked the judge to pool the jurors — each said guilty as their names were called.

Stephens ordered Click remanded to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver. As the correctional officer who had accompanied him throughout the trial escorted him to the door, Hassan declined a media request for comment while Click and his family left the courtroom. McDowell County Prosecuting attorney Ed Kornish hugged Jerry Roncella.

“I think that justice has been served,” Roncella said.

Perhaps ironically, during the first half of his closing argument, Kornish talked about how much Mayor Hatcher had done for his family and his community. He also mentioned that Tom asked the courts to consider probation for his son after his conviction for stealing money from the mayor to buy drugs.

“Because Tom was such a nice guy, Tom would plead for mercy for Earl Click,” Kornish said. “I am not as nice as Tom,” he said, and said the state wanted the jury to return a first-degree murder verdict without mercy. He cautioned that if they didn’t “someone else may die,” he said.

During his closing argument, Hassan reiterated the words that the defense’s expert witness Dr. William L. Manion said during his testimony that Mayor Hatcher’s death was due to natural causes. Hassan also questioned the credibility of the state’s witness Roy Darnell “Uncle Donnie” Harding “(who) is, in fact, a convicted murderer,” Hassan said.

Hassan also pointed out that four of the state’s expert witnesses from the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab testified, “and not one of them could connect Earl Click to Tom Hatcher’s bedroom.”

At the start of the day, Manion, who was still unable to travel to Welch because of extreme weather conditions in the East, testified via video conference. Under direct examination by Hassan, Manion gave his reasons for thinking Mayor Hatcher’s death was due to natural causes. “This is the type of person who is a walking heart attack,” Manion testified.

Under cross-examination by Kornish, he asked him what his charges were for being an expert witness. He testified that he charged $375 per hour, and $3,000 for a half-day in court. On re-cross, Kornish asked Manion if the defendant told Mayor Hatcher that he intended to harm his grandson, would he still expect to find defensive wounds. Manion testified that in those situations, a person’s “reptilian brain” takes over.

“We really can’t control it,” Manion testified. “We have no control over that fight or flight (instinct),” he testified.

Kornish asked Manion if he was aware of soldiers in combat who can train themselves to withstand great pain.

“Sure, with training,” Manion testified. “But this man was not a trained ninja. He was just a man.”

During the rebuttal phase of testimony, Detective Ron Blevins and Deputy Mark Shelton both testified about giving Earl Click an opportunity to tell his story to the police.

Kornish called Misty Long Laws, the girl that Click testified a day earlier in court had video taped their lovemaking session on the date and time that Mayor Hatcher’s death occurred.

She responded: “No,” to Kornish’s question as to whether or not she made a sex tape of herself and Earl Click. She also testified that Click’s mother, Tammy Shortridge, came to her apartment and “said she was going to whop my (butt),” because she was a married woman dating her son. “She never said anything about a tape.”

Stephens gave Hassan 10 days to file his motions in the case, and said the parties would have another post-trial hearing in 15 days.

Kornish said he was “satisfied” with the verdict, especially since the jury also found Earl Click guilty on the felony conspiracy count.

Rebecca “Becky” (Click) Hatcher’s new trial on the conspiracy count is scheduled later this month.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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