FRONT ROYAL — The drug possession trial of alleged murderer Richard Crouch will now be a bench trial before a judge, and evidence obtained by a legally challenged search will be included.
During a pre-trial conference in Warren County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Judge William Sharp accepted the waiver of a jury trial and denied a motion to suppress evidence in the case.
Attorney Eric Wiseley, representing Crouch, declined by phone interview Wednesday to give details as to why the trial format was switched other than it was the preference of his client.
Crouch of Warren County is charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in the trial, now scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The drug offense occurred Sept. 25, 2019, according to court records, a day after an incident in which he allegedly beat and choked a woman.
The trial for the charges he faces in the alleged beating is scheduled for Nov. 29 through Dec. 2, with a pre-trial conference on Nov. 19.
Crouch is also charged with murder in the unrelated death of Tristen Brinklow, 20, of Warren County, also in September 2019. The trial for that case is set for Aug. 2-6 with a pretrial conference date of July 26.
According to testimony from Warren County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Mike Henry during the hearing Tuesday, police had spoken with the victim in the beating and learned about the narcotics.
Police then went to Crouch's residence on Bear Court in Warren County to search his home without a warrant, where they found a baggie of methamphetamine and scales, according to Henry's testimony and court documents.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Fleming had filed a motion to include the results of the search in the trial.
Fleming’s motion during the hearing argued that Crouch, who was not present for the search, had consented even though he wasn't present because he was on probation.
As part of Crouch’s agreement to plead guilty to the felony charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in July 2019, Crouch had consented to searches without a warrant as part of his probation, Fleming argued.
The fact that Crouch's parents, who lived with him, didn’t consent to the search was irrelevant because they weren’t the ones on trial, Fleming said.
Wiseley argued that it was the parents’ Constitutional Fourth Amendment rights that had been violated and the evidence obtained during the search needed to be suppressed.
Wiseley cited the case of Georgia v. Randolph, which found that police had no right to search the residence of two co-tenants without a warrant when one of them objected to it, even though the other had consented.
Even though Crouch’s Fourth Amendment rights may have been waived, his parents were woken up in the middle of the night and had not consented to the search, Wisely argued.
But Sharp stated that in the Georgia case, the person objecting to the search was a defendant. Sharp said that since he was a federal or state Supreme Court judge, he was bound to follow precedent case law, and there was none allowing suppression of the search results.
Sharp said a potential remedy for Crouch's parents would be a civil lawsuit against the officers who conducted the search. But Wiseley stated those officers have qualified immunity, which limits people’s ability to file lawsuits against officers. Keeping or removing that qualified immunity provision has become part of a national discussion on how to reform policing around the country.
If Crouch is found guilty at the end of the trial, Wiseley said he will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
Crouch remains in custody without bond at Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.