By Lyra Bordelon
Greenbrier County’s first murder trial in the time of COVID-19 has been delayed as a result of rising case numbers across the county, state, and country. The trial of Edward Smith-Allen was originally scheduled to take place in December, but will now take place in April at the earliest.
Smith-Allen was indicted by a grand jury in October 2019 for the murder of Alaisia M. Smith in Dorie Miller Park in Lewisburg. Held in Southern Regional Jail until his court date, Smith-Allen attended a virtual pre-trial status hearing under Greenbrier County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dent on Monday, November 23, where the trial was postponed.
“We’re moving to continue this matter,” explained defense attorney Kristopher Faerber. “Obviously the court is well aware of the current risk level and at this point we’re in red. … To truly prepare for this matter and in fairness to everyone involved, we think it’s time to make a decision now and we decided to do that.”
Dent noted that the Greenbrier County Circuit Court was not currently using the same COVID-19 case risk map utilized by the state to determine event safety levels. The state maps have had criticism from several institutions for making changes to the original Harvard guidelines under which it was developed.
“This circuit is looking at the Harvard Institute of Health map concerning COVID-19,” explained Dent. “If the county is in the red zone according to that map, then we are not holding trials for grand juries. Greenbrier County is currently in the red.”
Even if Greenbrier County were not in the red, the motion might have still been introduced. Faerber noted that the circumstances around convening a grand jury would have led to large numbers of people in the Greenbrier County Courthouse and, in order to prevent COVID-19 spread, how the trial would have been conducted would have been affected.
“In considering the logistics necessary to have a trial in these circumstances we don’t believe we will receive a fair trial,” Faerber said. “We’re looking for more traditional logististics to have a trial.”
According to the initial criminal complaint, Smith-Allen was sitting with the victim and a witness in a vehicle in Dorie Miller Park on June 7. Smith-Allen was “playing with [a] gun and pointing it at people,” according to witnesses. One witness “said that the manner in which [Smith-Allen] was playing with the gun made her so uncomfortable that she left” and “before she left, the magazine had been ejected and two bullets fell out.” The bullets were “put back in the magazine and the magazine inserted into the pistol.”
The complaint then states the witness told Smith-Allen “to put the gun down” but he “pulled the trigger and shot the victim” while “pointing the gun at the victim.” Despite this, “all of the witnesses said the shooting was accidental,” reads the complaint.
A new trial date was set for April 2021. Smith-Allen will remain incarcerated in the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County until the trial is held.