Death penalty off table for George Wagner IV in Pike County murder case

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Update 10:08 am: If convicted, George Wagner IV will not face the death penalty.

The state of Ohio last year agreed to remove the death penalty for Wagner IV, along with his father, mother and younger brother. It was part of a deal the state made with Edward “Jake” Wagner in April and Angela Wagner in September, when each changed their pleas to guilty and agreed to testify in the trials of Wagner IV and his father, George “Billy”. Wagner III. The elder Wagner will be tried next year.

To take the death penalty off the table, the state asked Judge Randy Deering to dismiss three specs in all eight serious murder charges against Wagner IV. Deering granted the request.

“I want to make it clear that this is not a merit-based decision,” Special Counsel Angela Canepa said when she agreed to amend the charges.

Wagner IV’s lead attorney, John P. Parker, asked the court to settle the case this morning as both attorneys prepare closing statements to be delivered next Monday and Tuesday. The jury hears about the decision before the depositions begin.

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Previous reporting:

WAVERLY, Ohio — Prosecutors in the murder trial of George Wagner IV are expected to remove death as an option if convicted.

With the jury on vacation, attorneys will continue on Tuesday to meet with Pike County Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering to work out that question and other procedural matters.

On Monday, Deering made two key statements:

  • He rejected Wagner IV’s motion for acquittal, a standard petition from defendants after the evidence is in, but before a jury deliberates. That means the jury will consider all 22 charges against Wagner IV, including eight counts of aggravated murder for the 2016 shooting of the Rhoden family in Pike County.

  • He issued a “court notice” that one of the four crime scenes in the case is in fact in Scioto, not Pike County. But he also agreed that the crime scene was part of a “criminal line of conduct” and so rejected Wagner IV’s position that Pike County had no jurisdiction over that location.

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Judge Randy Deering on Monday asked attorneys in the George Wagner IV murder trial for input on his 150-page draft of jury briefs.

Deering also instructed attorneys to submit their suggestions for his 150-page draft jury briefing. Those negotiations continued until Monday afternoon in conference rooms, with court recess.

Deering asked prosecutors on Monday whether they would consider the death penalty as a possible punishment in the case.

Lawyers in George Wagner IV's murder trial continue to negotiate instructions the jury will receive in the case next week.  From left to right: Special Counsel D. Andrew Wilson, Chief Investigator Ryan Scheiderer, Attorney Richard M. Nash Jr., Special Counsel Angela Canepa, Attorney John P. Parker, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk.

Lawyers in George Wagner IV’s murder trial continue to negotiate instructions the jury will receive in the case next week. From left to right: Special Counsel D. Andrew Wilson, Chief Investigator Ryan Scheiderer, Attorney Richard M. Nash Jr., Special Counsel Angela Canepa, Attorney John P. Parker, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk.

“Are we going to dispute the death specs (specifications)?” he asked as attorney Richard M. Nash Jr. began his plea for acquittal.

To that, Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa replied, “Yes, Your Honor. We would like for Rule 29 purposes.” Under state and federal law, rule 29 refers to the petition for acquittal.

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The death penalty issue will be resolved before the jury returns on Monday.

Defense attorney John P. Parker stunned the Pike County Common Pleas Court when he called client George Wagner IV on November 16 and 17 to testify on his own behalf.

Defense attorney John P. Parker stunned the Pike County Common Pleas Court when he called client George Wagner IV on November 16 and 17 to testify on his own behalf.

The state of Ohio last year agreed to remove the death penalty for Wagner IV, along with his father, mother and younger brother. It was part of a deal the state made with Edward “Jake” Wagner in April and Angela Wagner in September, when each changed their pleas to guilty and agreed to testify in the trials of Wagner IV and his father, George “Billy”. Wagner III. The elder Wagner will be tried next year.

In addition to addressing the death penalty in jury instructions, the prosecution is considering five motions on that issue, filed Monday by Wagner IV’s attorneys.

Deering encouraged attorneys to move forward to resolve disputes.

“The more we get done today, the shorter our week will be,” he said Monday. “If we don’t get this thing done, we’re going to work on Wednesday too.”

He said he would also appear in court on Friday if the jury’s instructions are not complete by then.

The trial of Wagner IV began on August 29. The prosecution and defense rested on Friday, with Deering sending the jury home for the holiday week.

This story will be updated.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Pike County Murder Trial: No Death Penalty for George Wagner IV

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