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Court upholds Ramey's conviction in Scott County murder

May 20th, 2014 10:36 pm by Wes Bunch

Court upholds Ramey's conviction in Scott County murder

GATE CITY — A Tennessee man serving a life sentence for his role in a 2011 Christmas Day murder had a motion to dismiss the charges against him denied last week by a Virginia appeals court.

In its opinion, the three judge panel wrote that Charlie Joe Ramey's petition for appeal was "wholly frivolous."

Ramey's defense argued that his convictions should be reversed because the Scott County trial court "erred" in allowing jurors to visit the Nickelsville-area residence where Gregory Jerome Hale was killed in 2011.

Ramey, 62, is currently serving a sentence of life plus 40 years after being convicted by a jury in March 2013 on charges of first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy to distribute Schedule III drugs stemming from Hale's death.

A brief in opposition filed by the Scott County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office argued that the jury view was necessary for a "just decision" in Ramey's trial and that granting the visit was not an abuse of discretion by the court.

The appellant court agreed with the prosecution's arguments, stating that the court was permitted "to allow the jurors to view the scene to enable them to better understand and apply testimony given during trial."

The jury view held at Hale's residence on Addington Frame Road focused on conflicting evidence regarding whether witnesses could hear gunshots from other rooms of the house.

In an appeal filed on Ramey's behalf by attorney Joe Rasnic, the defense argued that the house visit was granted in error because the residence was materially different at the time of trial than from when Hale's murder took place.

The defense wrote that the view of the crime scene was unduly prejudicial to Ramey as it did not "accurately depict conditions" when the shooting occurred. The defense said furniture, carpet and other items not present in the home when the jury visited "would have tended to absorb" the sound of a gunshot Ramey said he did not hear.

The prosecution pointed out in its brief that 30th Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore advised jurors that changes had been made to the home.

The visit was necessary, the prosecution said, because it "aided the jury's understanding of the remoteness" of the house and the "proximity and spatial relationship" between the bathroom where Ramey claimed to be during the shooting and the living room where Hale was shot.

Scott County authorities said Hale was murdered when Ramey and Daniel Eugene Norris went to his residence under the pretense of buying drugs.

Authorities said Norris fired the shot before he and Ramey robbed Hale, whose body was discovered Christmas Day by a relative who went to the home to check on his welfare.

Norris, 38, of Bristol, Tenn., is scheduled to stand trail in Scott County on capital murder charges in July. If convicted, Norris could face the death penalty.

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