BUCKHANNON — On Monday, almost everything was in place for jury selection in a trial. The prosecutor, defense attorney, judge and about 70 people were waiting to go through the jury selection process.
However, a key person was missing – the defendant, Corey Shayne Bender, 26.
Bender is incarcerated in Stevens Correctional Center in Welch, McDowell County where he is serving a sentence for operating or attempting to operate a clandestine drug lab, conspiracy to commit a felony and conspiracy to commit shoplifting third offense, according to information on the Division of Corrections website.
Wednesday, he was supposed to stand trial in Upshur County on charges of delivery of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, and conspiracy, both felonies.
Now, a trial may not happen until the next term of court.
Judge Kurt Hall who was set to preside over the jury selection of Bender Monday said, “We did a transport order last Friday and faxed it to the number we had. The circuit clerk’s office, once they received and entered the transport order, also sent it by fax to that fax number. Both offices have fax confirmation sheets.”
When Hall’s staff called the prison Monday, they were told Bender would not be coming that day.
“They claimed they did not get that transport order,” Hall said. “We have two fax confirmation sheets. I had almost 70 people sitting in the court room who were potential jurors waiting. I don’t understand what is going on.”
A check of the case file for Bender shows the transport order was sent Friday, Dec. 7 and requested Bender to be at jury selection Monday which was starting at 10:30 a.m.
A second transport order had been sent to request Bender be at the courthouse for the trial to begin Wednesday, Dec. 12.
In this case, Bender is already serving a sentence on an unrelated matter.
However, if that person had been in jail and it would have delayed his right to a trial, it could have presented even more problems, according to Hall.
Hall said the Division of Corrections does not normally have problems getting inmates to court for hearings but he sometimes finds himself having to wait on regional jail inmates being transported from the Tygart Valley Regional Jail and hears from attorneys about how they are even late to hearings in Randolph County.
Hall, who hears cases in Upshur and Lewis counties, has witnessed inmates being 15 minutes, half an hour or more late and the same thing happened again on Monday.
“Not only did the DOC not bring over Bender but the Tygart Valley Regional Jail arrived an hour late with another defendant in a separate case that day, according to Hall.
The judge said Wednesday he was contemplating what to do next by either calling or sending a letter to the Division of Corrections.
“Somebody needs to do something about it because it is interfering with our ability to administer justice,” he said.
The Record Delta reached out to Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety on Thursday morning.
Stevens Correctional Center is a county owned agency contracted through the West Virginia Division of Corrections, according to Messina.
Messina said Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Inspector General Gary Johnson, a former circuit judge and former administrative director of the state Supreme Court, has reached out to Hall and is working to resolve the problems.
“We still don’t know what happened to the orders that were sent to McDowell County,” he said before press deadline Thursday.
“Inspector General Johnson has spoken with Judge Hall about this and [Hall] also mentioned the issues with the transport to and from Tygart Valley,” Messina said. “We do hope to address both of those issues.”