Judge allows new witness in murder trial in cab driver’s death

FRONT ROYAL — Circuit Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. allowed the prosecution on Monday to add an expert witness in the trial of Clay Marshall Curtis, who was indicted in December 2014 in the shooting death of Front Royal cab driver Simon Funk.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton asked the court to replace one forensic scientist with another, both of whom work in analyzing a gun’s primer residue. Layton was saying that the scientist who was originally set to testify only signed the certificate of analysis, which details the test that was completed, but he was not the scientist who actually conducted the tests.

Athey allowed the forensic scientist who conducted the analysis to be a witness in this trial, noting that he recently recognized the scientist as an expert witness in a trial in Winchester.

Defense attorneys David Hensley and John Bell argued that this witness would not be able to testify to the certificate of analysis, as he is not the one who signed it, and objected to the certificate being entered into evidence without the analyst who signed it being present for cross examination. Athey agreed that the scientist who conducted the tests could not necessarily testify to a document that he did not sign, but would allow him about to testify about the details of the test that preceded the signing of the certificate by the other forensic scientist.

The analyst who signed the document is scheduled to be out of town during that time, and Layton suggested the possibility of having him appear via Skype, though Athey said that the court is reluctant to use alternate forms of testimony.

There are over 30 witnesses set to appear in this five-day trial which is set for June 26-30.

Contact staff writer Briahnna Brown at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or bbrown@nvdaily.com