Craig Wood preliminary hearing April 2nd at 9 am

Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Good evening:

The court scheduled a preliminary hearing for Craig Michael Wood on Wednesday, April 2nd at 9 am.

Although a judge has already reviewed the lead detective’s affidavit summarizing the evidence against Mr. Wood at his initial appearance after his arrest and determined that probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) exists to believe that he committed the crimes charged in the complaint, Mr. Wood has a right to revisit the probable cause issue at a preliminary hearing.

A preliminary hearing is not a trial. The hearing will be before a judge without a jury and the rules of evidence will be relaxed.

The issue the judge must decide is the same. That is whether probable cause exists to believe Mr. Wood committed the crimes charged in the complaint. The difference is that the decision must be based on the evidence presented at the hearing by the prosecution, as opposed to the initial appearance when no witnesses testified and the judge based his decision on reviewing the affidavit for probable cause.

Since hearsay is admissible at a preliminary hearing, prosecutors generally call only a few witnesses. In most cases they only call the lead detective who wrote the affidavit for probable cause. He or she is placed under oath and answers the prosecutor’s questions.

The defense gets to cross examine the witness after the prosecution finishes the direct exam.

Defense counsel know they are unlikely to win a probable cause argument, so they use cross examination to discover potential vulnerabilities in the prosecution’s case and to lock the witness down on any facts that may be favorable to the client’s case.

Therefore, you will often hear the prosecutor object to the relevance of any question asked by defense counsel that is not probative of probable cause.

I have already written about a potential vulnerability in the prosecution’s case regarding the first entry into Mr. Wood’s house. He was not present and they apparently did not have a search warrant. They may have lacked probable cause to believe she was in the house and their safety sweep of the premises may have exceeded the limited scope of a safety check.

Questions regarding that subject matter would likely trigger a relevancy objection, since the sole issue before the judge will be whether probable cause supports the charges, not whether police unlawfully entered the house.

Do not be surprised, however, if the grand jury returns an indictment against Mr. Wood before the preliminary hearing. Should that happen, the grand jury would have already determined that probable cause supports the charges in the indictment and there would no longer be any need for a preliminary hearing.

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9 Responses to Craig Wood preliminary hearing April 2nd at 9 am

  1. Don Berkowitz says:

    Why would prosecutors in this case ask for a delay in the preliminary hearing–citing that the medical examiner woudln’t be available for the original April 2nd date–if the prosecutor intends to get grand jury indictments and never actually anticipates going to a preliminary hearing? (Thanks for responding to these questions!)

  2. Don Berkowitz says:

    Mr. Leatherman: At what point would additional charges against Mr. Wood be handed down? We found out today that the preliminary hearing has now been pushed back to April 24. If the autopsy report reveals sexual abuse (which appears inevitable at this point), must he be formally charged with that additional crime before the premilinary hearing? And what if investigators are linking him to other previous cases, as has also been speculated. Must that investigation and those charges come forth before any preliminary hearing? Thanks…

    • No additional charges need to be filed before the preliminary hearing. Ultimately, the prosecutor will recommend and a grand jury will decide what the final set of charges will be and the indictment returned by the grand jury probably will happen before the preliminary hearing. If so, the preliminary hearing will no longer be necessary since the grand jury will have decided that probable cause exists to believe he committed the crimes charged in the indictment. Therefore, the preliminary hearing would be stricken. That’s what I am expecting will happen.

      • Don Berkowitz says:

        How do we know if and when a grand jury will hear the evidence? Will they assemble a grand jury between now and April 24th once the autopsy and other investigations are complete in order to strike the preliminary hearing? Will the public know that a grand jury is hearing the case, or will it be a surprise announcement ahead of the preliminary hearing? And will the grand jury indictment, if there is one, be the first we’ll hear of additional charges?

        • Grand juries generally serve 18 month terms and meet once a month in secret to hear evidence presented by prosecutors in support of the charges they want to file against a defendant.

          The GJ’s job is to decide whether probable cause exists to believe a defendant committed the crimes listed in the proposed indictment.

          In other words, we won’t hear anything until the grand jury issues the indictment.

          I’ve written several more comprehensive posts about grand juries. Check out the categories in the right-hand column for grand jury. Should answer most of your questions.

  3. bettykath says:

    OT. Strange goings on this morning. Can’t access msnbc, waynemadsen, huffington post. but google, yahoo, email, and this site all work.

  4. Malisha says:

    Preliminary hearings are very important to the defense. That is how I figured out that in a case in Harford County, Maryland (State versus Valerie Carlton), the private attorney hired for the defendant with money contributed by several women (since it was a trumped up case brought simply to get a child away from a mother so the father would have sole custody and the mother’s visitation would be forever canceled) had been suborned by the corrupt prosecutor. There was zero, zilch, NADA evidence against this woman and their only witness was allegedly the five-year-old child of a neighbor who was a suspected drug dealer and who was “required” by law enforcement to offer an interview with her daughter so as not to be prosecuted for something. Her kid couldn’t keep the story straight even in an interview. I saw a video of the kid accidently speaking about a dead duck when she was supposed to claim to have witnessed a rape in a bathtub. Anyway, the lawyer said he had canceled the preliminary hearing because the defendant (held on a no-bail at first, then ten million dollars bail, and finally $375,000 bail!) didn’t like the transports because she complained her cuffs were always too tight. Then, I knew very little about criminal law and I trusted this guy to be telling the truth when he said, “the preliminary hearing doesn’t do anything anyway.” Later I found out he was a thief and a liar and a preliminary hearing would have immediately freed this woman and given her a cause of action against many agencies and individuals because that county did not even have jurisdiction over the investigation. I can’t remember the lawyer’s name now. A preliminary hearing can be extremely important to the defense.

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