By Bobby Bordelon
A life sentence could be on the horizon for Carl Rich for his role in the shooting of Jay Boothe due to two previous felonies he committed. On Friday, April 16, a Greenbrier County jury convened for an identity trial, an important step in the life sentencing process.
Rich was indicted on a murder charge in October 2018 after shooting Jay Booth with a compound bow, ultimately resulting in Booth’s death. After a November 2019 trial, Rich was convicted of voluntary manslaughter by a jury. The case continued to an identity trial for revitism sentencing after a motion for a new trial was denied.
“It’s kind of an odd trial,” explained Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via. “They don’t say guilty or not guilty … they were asked to say yes or no to if the Carl Rich before them was the same Carl Rich that had committed this burglary offense … and had previously committed a delivery of cocaine offense. The verdict was he was the same person on both counts.
The previous felonies include a 2010 burglary case and a cocaine distribution charge from 2004. For each of these offenses, the prosecution brought a law enforcement witness who was in some way related to the case.
“[They called] Chief Deputy Josh Martin, who was the arresting officer on the 2004 case,” said Defense Attorney Grady Ford. “He testified that he grew up next to Carl Rich’s family … and that he had also known him professionally and was able to identify him as Carl Rich. … [They also called] Lieutenant Brian Baker of the Drug/Violent Task Force, who was part of the team that did the arrest in 2010. He didn’t know him individually, but was able to provide an account of the offense and was able to identify him.”
Defense Attorney Paul Detch attempted, but failed, to get the second witness impeached on the ground that he didn’t know Rich, but Baker testified he remembered a detail about the case that left an impression, hence how he recognized Rich.
The prosecution then called their third, and final, witness.
“The final witness was the forensic portion of it,” Via said. “We had Stephen King, who’s the fingerprint analyst at the West Virginia State Lab. He testified to having done a comparative analysis of the finger prints from the person identified as Carl Rich on the previous burglary, the fingerprints… with the previous delivery of cocaine, and the current case, the manslaughter case. He compared those three sets of prints and concluded they were made by the same person.”
After a short deliberation, the jury found Rich to be the perpetrator of all three offenses. The case now goes to sentencing, which includes the potential for a life sentence.
“What we’re going to argue is cut and dry,” Via said. “All three of these felonies are serious and all three of these felonies were violent or had the absolute potential for violence. We will not back down in [any] way whatsoever. We are seeking a life sentence.”
“We’re going to argue that it is not proportional,” Ford said. “He’s talking about a life sentence. That’s what you do in those cases. There’s no place to go, so you fight to the end. You’re conceivably talking about forever. Unless the client says ‘I’m fine with staying in the penitentiary,’ then they can do that, but that’s not something we tend to encourage clients to do and it’s not something they tend to volunteer on their own behalf.”
If he receives a life sentence, Rich would become eligible for parole after 15 years.