Lewis County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Reger denied a motion requesting a jury consultant, filed by Lena Lunsford Conaway, who is accused in the death of her toddler daughter.
Her attorney, Thomas Dyer, filed the motion on July 28, requesting the consultant to determine the feasibility for Conaway to receive a fair trial in Lewis County.
Dyer called Graham Godwin of Orion Strategies to the stand. Godwin, who works with research and polling for Orion, said the company would research, write, and tabulate a report which would be presented to the court.
Godwin said the survey would poll 300 potential jurors in Lewis County, using a list of questions developed by Orion. The questions would be constructed without introducing bias, Godwin said. The cost for this service would range anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000.
Prosecuting Attorney Christina Flanigan asked Godwin how they determine who to call, with Godwin responding that they take their information from census records. He stated that the survey would not be complete until 300 people completed the entire survey.
Dyer argued that a survey provides the potential opportunity for more candor among prospective jurors. He also stated he has done similar surveys in the past at little or no cost by using West Virginia University students.
Flanigan stated that the state could hire their own consultant, which would cost the state even more money. She added that the questions asked could taint the jury pool even further.
Reger stated the court can do this without a jury consultant. He told the court that this case comes with a high amount of publicity, but felt there can still be a fair trial locally. If they get to jury selection, and cannot find a fair and impartial jury, they will go from there.
“Lewis County is a small population and if calls are made, it could intensify feelings [about the case],” Reger added.
Earlier that same day, in an unrelated case, Conaway’s ex-husband Ralph Lunsford, appeared in Circuit Court on third-offense one count of domestic battery, a felony.
He was indicted by the Lewis County Grand Jury in July. David Godwin served as special prosecutor for Lunsford’s arraignment. His trial has been scheduled for 9 a.m., Oct. 19.
Whitney Chipps, 27, of Clarksburg, appeared in Circuit Court July 31, and her trial is scheduled for Oct. 23.
According to the court and Chipps’s defense attorney, James Hawkins, they are anticipating a two-day trial. Hawkins told the court he will be filing a motion for discovery, suppressing recorded phone calls, and a transcript for Grand Jury proceedings.