WV jury finds Berkeley Springs man guilty of 2nd degree murder

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BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — It took a 12 person jury about five and a half hours before they found Wesley McCoy guilty of second-degree murder, brandishing a weapon and destruction of property.

However, according to McCoy’s defense attorneys it could have been much worse for their client.

“We just asked the jury to give us a fair shake, and that’s what we think they did,” said defense’s co-counsel Kevin Watson.

McCoy was initially facing first-degree murder after investigators with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office say he stabbed another Berkeley Springs man, Justin Buell, last August.

First-degree murder carries a life sentence in West Virginia, but state prosecutors have to prove premeditation, determination and malice for the charge to stick.

In a second-degree murder charge, the state only has to prove malice.

“It could have been a lot worse, so we are very happy with the jury,” said defense’s co-counsel Craig Manford. “The jury did a great job. They really paid attention during the entire trial. They were really with us during our arguments.”

In closing arguments, state prosecutor Deborah McLaughlin showed the jury graphic images of evidence gather during the case.

McLaughlin told the jury this was a first-degree murder case, because witness testimony and evidence proved that McCoy chased Buell down South Washington Street, before stabbing him.

“That chase is everything,” said McLaughlin to the jury. “It shows premeditation.”

In his closing arguments, Manford told the jury that McCoy was not looking for a fight the night of the stabbing. Instead, Manford said McCoy was “provoked” by four men looking to beat him up.

Manford told the jury that his client had a “knee jerk reaction” and acted “in a heat of passion” when he stabbed Buell.

His defense asked the jury to find McCoy guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and to have mercy if they found him guilty of murder.

In her rebuttal, McLaughlin had few words for the jury. “You don’t get to bring a knife to a fist fight,” she said.

McLaughlin asked the jury to “end the fights [and] end the stabbings, [as] nobody else needs to be a victim of Wes McCoy’s,” before asking the jury to find McCoy guilty of first-degree murder.

Almost six hours later, the jury decided not on first-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, but found McCoy guilty of second-degree murder.

“We’re a little disappointed that it wasn’t voluntary [manslaughter],” said Watson, “but we respect the jury’s decision, and the hard work that they put in over these last four days.”

For second-degree murder, McCoy is facing a minimum of ten years in prison, with a maximum sentence of 40 years.

“The judge gets to pick the sentence,” said Manford. “Anywhere from ten to 40 [years], so were obviously going to be doing our best to argue for the lower end.”

McCoy’s defense attorneys say they plan to appeal the verdict in the hopes of pursing an acquittal or self defense ruling.

According to the victim, Justin Buell’s wife, Thursday, the same day the jury made their verdict, would have been their 15th wedding anniversary.

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