BECKLEY– A Raleigh County judge declared a mistrial in the criminal trial of Marquel Ali after two members of the gallery spoke with two defense witnesses Wednesday afternoon.
According to the Beckley Register Herald, during pre-trial motions, Judge John A. Hutchison granted a motion requiring the sequestration of witnesses, meaning they could not access media coverage or learn about the goings-on of the trial.
Stephanie Pack, a Raleigh County Magistrate Court employee, notified Cpl. Justin Johnson that she overheard discussion of the trial in the hallway as she was re-entering Hutchison’s courtroom.
Pack testified that she saw two male members of the gallery speaking with two defense witnesses, Ali’s mother and grandmother. As she was passing by, she overheard one of the women call a prosecution witness “schizophrenic” and say that her testimony should not be believed.
The judge said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial.
A new preliminary hearing has been set for May 1 at 2 p.m. and a new trial is scheduled to begin May 22.