PRINCETON — Trials for two men facing first-degree murder and robbery charges could be delayed while a circuit court and attorneys for both the state and the defense determine how a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling could impact the case.
Joseph Patrick Wellman, 20, of Welch and Juwan Rasheed Rowe, 23, of Bluefield appeared Monday in separate hearings before Circuit Court Judge William Sadler. Wellman and Rowe were arrested and charged in early January with first-degree murder and first-degree armed robbery after the death of Roderick Quincy, 43, of Baltimore, Md. Detective Sgt. K.L. Adams of the Bluefield Police Department said after the arrests that the shooting was drug related.
The Jan. 3 incident occurred at approximately 9 a.m. that day. Adams later explained that addicts often seek drugs early in the morning when they wake up “dope sick.”
During the Jan. 3 incident at the intersection of Carolina Avenue and Elm Street off Bluefield Avenue, Quincy was shot in the head, Adams said. He was taken to Bluefield Regional Medical Center and then flown Charleston Area Medical Center where he later died.
Adams testified Monday during Wellman’s pretrial hearing that Wellman was tracked to a Beckley apartment with a signal from a cellphone. After Wellman was taken into custody, he was transported to the West Virginia State Police Beckley detachment where he gave Adams a statement. Adams said he read Wellman his Miranda Rights and gave him a Miranda Rights form to sign and initial before speaking with him.
“Did he understand his Miranda Rights?” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Janet Williamson asked.
“Yes,” Adams replied.
Williamson also asked if Wellman was “under the influence” while giving the statement. Adams said that Wellman was not.
Giving his statement, Wellman said that they (with Rowe) were there to rob people who met them in a car, but he became scared when he saw the number of people there and thought they were going to “drop him,” so he drew his weapon, Adams testified. The pistol was later recovered at the apartment where Wellman was found.
Williamson asked Sadler that Wellman’s statement be admitted into evidence. The state hopes to try Wellman and Rowe at the same time.
Attorneys representing Wellman and Rowe said they had concerns about whether the cellphone information which resulted in the arrests, and Wellman’s statement, was admissible since a warrant for it was not obtained. In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court said that police generally need a search warrant if they want to track suspects’ movements by collecting information about where they’ve used their cellphones. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that police can still respond to an emergency and obtain records without a warrant.
Sadler scheduled a new pretrial hearing for Aug. 1 so the court, and the state and defense, would have time to examine the high court’s recent ruling. Williamson said later that Sadler would rule on the statement’s admissibility after this examination was made. The trials were scheduled for Aug. 7.
Wellman is being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver on a $500,000 cash or surety bond. Rowe is free on bond.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org