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Clay Co. jurors will travel to Spencer Co.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Clay County's jury pool will soon be tapped for the murder retrial of Roy Lee Ward.

Spencer Circuit Court Judge Wayne Roell suggested Clay, Morgan and Green counties as potential jury pools during December negotiations.

Able to strike one county from the three choices, the prosecution denied Morgan while the defense eliminated Green, leaving Clay County as their choice.

"We haven't been notified about all the details yet, but we expect to hear from Spencer County real soon," Clay Circuit Court Clerk Mary Brown said.

She told The Brazil Times she will provide Spencer County court officials with a jury pool list.

Local residents will be notified by mail they are potential jury members and when to appear, but it is unknown at this time how many residents will be contacted to participate.

Clay Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Pell confirmed the jury selection process is scheduled Oct. 16 in Circuit Court, with Judge Roell presiding. He said it could take up to a week to complete, but emphasized the public needed to remember the trial will be in Spencer County.

Officials at the Spencer County Prosecutor's Office confirmed they will incur the travel and housing expenses of the jurors while also paying for each member's service during the duration of the trial against Ward.

On July 11, 2001, Ward is accused of attacking and raping Stacy Payne, 15, in her Dale, Ind., home while a younger sibling, who witnessed the crime, was upstairs. Brutally mutilated during the attack, the victim lived for a short time before dying from the injuries.

Ward was charged with murder, rape and criminal deviate conduct. His defense attorneys, Barbara Williams and Scott Blazey, petitioned the court twice to change the trial location because of extensive pretrial publicity in the small county, but were denied before the trial started.

Sentenced to death for the October 2002 murder conviction, Ward was also convicted and sentenced to a term of 50 years each for rape and criminal deviate conduct.

Ward's attorney filed a 2004 appeal writing Ward's case should not have been tried in Spencer County because of community bias due to pretrial publicity.

In June 30, 2004, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the appeal. Indiana Code: 35-36-6-11 provides any defendant charged with murder or a Class A Felony can file a motion for a change of venue. The court may decline to grant the motion, order the jury be drawn from residents of another county or move the trial completely outside the county where the crime took place.

Justice Robert D. Rucker stated that with the defendant's life at stake, "We think the Constitution requires that the defendant be tried in an atmosphere undisturbed by so huge a wave of public passion and by a jury other than one in which one half of the members admit, before hearing any testimony, to possessing a belief in his guilt. We conclude therefore that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant Ward's motion for change of venue from the county, or in the alternative to draw the jury from another county."

The court reversed Ward's 2002 murder conviction and vacated his death sentence on June 30, 2004, and ordered a new trial to take place in 2006.

Ward remains incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison for the rape and criminal deviate conduct convictions while awaiting a new trial for Stacy Payne's murder.

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