The Central Virginian

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Attorney locks horns with Louisa judge

Posted on Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 5:00 am

Kelly Clark shields his face as he enters the courthouse Tuesday.

Though he was there to defend Kelly Clark against an attempted capital murder charge, Richmond attorney Joseph Morrissey at times appeared to be the main event during Clark’s court hearing on Tuesday.

Morrissey and Louisa General District Court Judge Claiborne Stokes engaged in a brief shouting match as Morrissey tried to introduce information about the case, and Stokes repeatedly disallowed it.

The purpose of the hearing was to determine if there is probable cause for Clark’s case to be heard by a grand jury. At the end of the hearing, Stokes said there was.

The key for the judge was Clark’s statement, twice, to Louisa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tommy Payne that he was going to kill him. That was recorded on Payne’s body camera during his encounter with Clark in the early hours of Dec. 26, just before Payne shot him in the chest.

Clark made those threats as he ran toward Payne, and the two men engaged in a brief scuffle. Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire said Clark was trying to take Payne’s gun, while Morrissey said that isn’t apparent from the video.

Stokes sought to stop Morrissey from introducing statements at the hearing that were made outside the courtroom, other than those recorded with the body camera. For the purpose of determining probable cause, the out-of-court statements are hearsay, the judge said.

That infuriated Morrissey, who suggested Stokes “wanted to try the case in a vacuum.”

“It appears you’ve made up your own mind,” before the hearing even began, Morrissey charged, noting Stokes had heard some of the evidence during Clark’s bond hearing in January.

To read the entire story, see the April 27 edition of The Central Virginian.