POINT PLEASANT — The man who law enforcement alleges pulled the trigger and killed Rene Gonzalez of Gallipolis Ferry has asked the court to appoint new attorneys in his case.
Steven L. Adkins, Jr. 26, Apple Grove, recently appeared in Mason County Circuit Court via video teleconferencing from the Western Regional Jail. Adkins requested his court-appointed attorneys Rebecca S. Johnson and Pancho Morris be replaced.
Judge David W. Nibert has been presiding over the case and granted Adkins’ request, though with caution to the defendant.
Nibert’s order, filed recently in the office of Mason County Circuit Clerk Bill Withers, states Adkins had formed a belief that his counsel were conspiring to cause him to be convicted. The order also says Adkins was refusing to cooperate with his counsel.
Nibert responded by saying he had presided over cases wherin both Johnson and Morris had represented defendants for a number of years. He said each attorney is able counsel who “zealously represent their clients.” Nibert went on to write, “even if the defendant believes counsel are not representing his interest, he is incorrect.” In other words, as the judge put it, the attorneys “would not participate in any activities, conspiracy or otherwise, that would be contrary to the best interest of their client.”
Though Nibert found no grounds existed to replace counsel for Adkins, he stated circumstances presently exist where Adkins will not communicate with counsel. Due to this refusal to communicate, Nibert granted Adkins’ request though cautioned if Adkins continued to refuse to participate with counsel, any new requests to change counsel would not be granted. Nibert wrote, “defendant’s refusal to communicate with and cooperate with his new attorney would indicate to the court there is no reason to believe that the defendant would communicate with any counsel.”
Therefore, Nibert appointed Bryan Escue and Elizabeth Sunyog as Adkins’ new attorneys.
Also, there is a status conference on the Adkins case scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Oct. 18 in Mason County Circuit Court.
Most recently in the Gonzalez case, Matthew C. Woods, 25, Gallipolis Ferry, pleaded guilty to second degree murder as part of a plea agreement. Woods, along with Chad W. McCallister, 30, Apple Grove, and Adkins, were charged in the July 2011 murder of Gonzalez.
Woods agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, second degree murder, which basically removes the deliberate element of first degree murder. He also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution by providing “truthful testimony” in relation to the other two men charged in the murder indictment. McCallister’s trial is set for Dec. 11 and there has been no trial date set for Adkins at this point.
The state is asking for a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for Woods. Nibert referred the case to county probationary officers for a recommendation on sentencing, scheduling that sentencing for 1 p.m., Dec. 10 in Mason County Circuit Court, a day before McCallister’s trial is to begin.
Adkins and McCallister have pleaded not guilty to the 2011 Gonzalez murder.