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Hearing cleans up trial record

Hearing cleans up trial record

Process is part of the appeal of woman sentenced to life for murdering fellow square dancer

November 18th, 2017 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News
Virginia Hyatt, 69, speaks with a member of her defense team, Texarkana lawyer Bruce Condit, before a hearing Friday afternoon in a courtroom at the Miller County jail. Hyatt is appealing her 2016 capital murder conviction for the 2013 murder of Patti Wheelington in Texarkana, Ark. Friday's hearing was held to address issues with the trial's official record at the request of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Virginia Hyatt, 69, speaks with a member of...

Photo by Galveston County Daily News /Texarkana Gazette.

A Texarkana woman sentenced last year to life without parole for murdering a fellow square dancer was back in Miller County, Ark., for a court hearing Friday afternoon.

Virginia Ann Hyatt, 69, sat in a wheelchair as a member of the Miller County Sheriff's Office pushed her into the courtroom Friday afternoon at the Miller County jail complex. Hyatt was found guilty by a Miller County jury in the December 2013 shooting death of Patricia "Patti" Wheelington, 54.

Wheelington, Hyatt and Hyatt's husband were members of the Guys and Dolls dance club in Texarkana, Ark., and Hyatt blamed Wheelington for the demise of her decades long marriage. Wheelington was shot as she sat in a bath robe on the front porch of her South Valley Road home in Texarkana, Ark., drinking her morning coffee. Hyatt has been in Arkansas Department of Correction custody since her conviction.

Members of Hyatt's defense team, Texarkana lawyers John Pickett, Bruce Condit and Damon Young, worked with Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Black and Circuit Judge Randal Wright to address issues Friday in the official record of Hyatt's February 2016 capital murder trial.

The case is on appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. The higher court recently issued an order identifying problems with exhibits, including video evidence, encountered during the review of the case necessary to address the appeal.

A mislabeled copy of a video of Hyatt traveling through a McDonald's drive-through the morning of the murder was among the minor issues settled Friday by the trial court. A document stipulating certain facts about the trial and the official record along with correctly labeled discs and other evidence used at trial will now be forwarded to the higher court so that they can decide whether Hyatt's appeal has merit.

Hyatt has complained that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's finding of guilt.

During the trial, the jury heard testimony from many members of the now defunct Guys and Dolls club regarding Hyatt's undisguised animosity toward Wheelington. Witnesses testified that Hyatt was proficient in the use of a pistol and that she had previously gone to Wheelington's home uninvited to confront her.

Hyatt claimed she couldn't have killed Wheelington because she was at her mother's nursing home visiting with her and delivering a McDonald's sausage biscuit. Video footage from the nursing and from McDonald's showed Hyatt's activities actually occurred later in the morning than she claimed, and video footage from a convenience store showed a car which appeared to be Hyatt's traveling a road near Wheelington's home around the time of the killing.

 

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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