WINCHESTER — A hearing on scheduling homicide suspect Edward Nathaniel Bell Jr.’s trial in Winchester Circuit Court on Friday previewed what jury trials may look like during the coronavirus pandemic.

The defendant and witnesses will wear masks, and the media and public will have to watch in a separate courtroom, according to Judge Brian Madden. Instead of at the Joint Judicial Center at 5 N. Kent St., jury selection will be done at the former Winchester Star building across the street at 2 N. Kent St., to allow for social distancing. The building has been vacant since The Star relocated in 2019.

Jury trials were suspended statewide on June 29 due to the pandemic, although bench trials, in which cases are decided by judges, are continuing.

At least 53 circuit courts have had their plans to resume jury trials approved by the Virginia Supreme Court, according to Patricia G. Davis of the state Supreme Court’s Office of the Executive Secretary. However, circuit courts in Clarke and Frederick counties and in Winchester, which are part of the 26th Circuit, are not among them. Davis said in an email last week that she didn’t have a timeline for approval.

Bell, 23, is one of four people charged in the drug-related robbery and murder of Jerry Wayne Reid in Reid’s Smithfield Avenue home on Dec. 23, 2018. Bell, who is accused of shooting the 40-year-old Reid in the chest, is charged with first-degree murder.

Madden told Bell’s attorney, Louis Campola, that trials during the pandemic will be different but fair. “I don’t think anybody likes it, but it is the situation were are in today,” he said.

However, with the defendant and witnesses wearing masks, Campola questioned whether fairness was possible. “That will have a negative effect on the jury,” he said.

In a motion filed on Thursday, Campola wrote that the recent COVID-19 outbreak at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Frederick County has made it impossible for him to visit Bell. He said there is also a higher probability of a mistrial due to jurors contracting the virus. “Defense cannot adequately prepare for a trial’s logistics without knowing beforehand the mandates that will be imposed,” Campola said.

Campola also noted that Black people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Blacks are three times as likely as whites to become infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because Bell is Black, a lack of Black people in the jury pool due to the virus could affect Bell’s Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury, which includes a fair representation of Black jurors. About 11% of Winchester’s 28,000 residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

To better prepare, Campola agreed to waive Bell’s right to a speedy trial. The eight-day trial, which had been scheduled to begin Feb. 1, was postponed to 9 a.m. on Oct. 4.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(24) comments

Fourty

Murder is death. Lets not go loose on this wonderful member of society.

Conservative

Hope he get's the death penalty, just like his father, another worthless loser.

john brown

settle down mr bloodthirsty "prolife", they will get to him soon enough

Comment deleted.
Bryan.the.Nuri

I'm living rent free in your mind, eh, James Lynagh? I have no idea who these other people are but you have built a superb narrative in your medicine-addled mind.

Seek help, dude.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Your mood shifts denote a clear mental break. You seriously need to schedule an appointment with a licensed therapist.

Fourty

No not rent free. Our attorneys are not free. U are going to be oictured in cuffs soon girly.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Is that a threat? Do I need to consult law enforcement?

Fourty

Call the law u bjt..ch call them please

Fourty

Are u liberals upset a white qb is the best athlete ever? Are u shaken in your light lofers? U should be

Fourty

Hey nuri....where is blacktrashhkrse sticking up for u u loser

Fourty

Nuri I have sought help. The investigators. U little girl. Hahaha I'm going to find u I will I promise. Then we can talk. Please do not run this time. I just want to talk. Where is your son? Shouldnr he be man enough to stick up for u? Or is the loser tired of your bitc...h a...ss ways?

Blondie

Even with co-vid, I don't see why it takes three years for a murderer to go to trial.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Talk to a lawyer, learn about pre-trial activities like discovery. Real life isn't like Law & Order.

Blondie

Bryan.the.Nerd, I don't believe anyone rattled your cage so keep quiet.

Bryan.the.Nuri

What is your vested interest in this case? Was Jerry a friend of yours? Or do you just want another death penalty to be meted out?

Fourty

Nuri u shouldn't advise anyone. Your layer discriminated against my wife yet she is a liberal nut? What sense does that make? Nuri u called our son a retar..d? Then ran for school board. We will be sure it never ever happens again.

Bryan.the.Nuri

And its COVID, not co-vid

Blondie

If you want to get technical, it's actually Corona Virus Disease, or better known as COVID-19. Of course, you probably won't see this as the Star deletes all of my comments. I guess I hit the truth too often.

john brown

or the Star finds your comments false, offensive and/or loonie... that would be my guess

Bryan.the.Nuri

I end up reporting a lot of your drivel

Comment deleted.
Bryan.the.Nuri

Tell ya what, pup. Why don't you try me? You're a pretty poor junior detective if you haven't figured out where I am every day. I guess the medications have some counter indicating effects on memory, huh?

john brown

who rattled your cage blondie... I thought you were "pro-life"...lol

Comment deleted.
Bryan.the.Nuri

Hush, pup. You're only embarrassing yourself.

Comment deleted.
Bryan.the.Nuri

😀😃😄😁😆😅🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣

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