Triple homicide

Trial expected to start today

By Jason Cowan, The Union Democrat

Parties involved in the case of a man accused of killing three at a marijuana farm outside Rail Road Flat in 2015 met Tuesday to address the first phase of the trial and evidence before the start of a 20-day trial Wednesday.

Jury selection will span the first two days of the trial. Individuals summoned will arrive Wednesday to fill out a questionnaire designed by attorneys to seek impartial representatives. The questionnaire could take two hours to complete court documents said.

In all, 520 individuals have been summoned.

If selected, they’ll determine the verdict in the case of Jeremiah Barrett. Barrett has been in custody of the Calaveras County Jail since Oct 20, 2015, on $3.45 million bail. He has been charged with three counts of felony murder in the second degree and a number of other allegations.

Barrett pleaded not guilty last February.

Prosecutors say he drove to the marijuana farm his brother Leon Grammar owned, in the early hours of Oct. 20, 2015, after three entered the premises to steal marijuana.

Robert Daniel Haney, Terry Glen Looney Jr. and Wesley David Smith were shot and killed.

Attorneys will convene with Judge Thomas Healy at 1:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the process moving forward. Among the topics that Healy may decide is a change of venue request filed by Ken Foley on behalf of Barrett, his client.

Healy said last week during court they may have to wait until a jury is selected to determine the location of the trial.

Foley filed the motion on Dec. 27 2016 and amended it on Jan. 4. It said a fair and balanced trial wouldn’t be able to occur in Calaveras because of pretrial publicity, a bias against growers and the political issues that have come from the commercialization of the industry among other reasons.

Healy also addressed evidence available to jurors during the trial. He ruled against Foley and his motion to use evidence of the prior conduct of the victims. The three had numerous felony convictions since 1996.

He questioned how conduct would be relevant if the defendant didn’t know of the prior convictions at the time of the incident.

Healy also granted a motion by the the state to exclude evidence of prior conduct for a number of potential witnesses.

Foley said Tuesday during court he wanted to enter autopsy evidence that showed toxic levels of methamphetamine in the systems of all three victims at the time of the incident.

Foley said he intends to have an expert speak about the effects of methamphetamine levels and violent behavior. The defense maintains the suspect was acting in self defense as the victims were allegedly running toward him while threatening his life.

Healy said Foley will have to prove how the fact is relevant to the trial before it’s used in court. The defendant needed to have known the victims were on methamphetamine Healy said.

Foley was told to notify the court ahead of time if he believes he has an argument for relevancy. A special hearing will take place to dispute the current ruling.

Contact Calaveras County reporter Jason Cowan at jcowan@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4531. Follow him on Twitter at @jcowan1031.

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The Union Democrat
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