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Appeals denied for Clark, Meredith

Appeals have been denied for two men serving combined 372-year prison sentences for convictions handed down by Pulaski County juries.
The appeals were unique in that in both cases, the defendants represented themselves in the appeals after their attorneys filed motions “asking to be removed from the case because they could not find a legitimate issue to appeal,” said Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor.
Fleenor said James Ferlon Clark and Ronald Layne Meredith II were allowed to represent themselves based on a Supreme Court ruling that a person has a constitutional right to represent himself. He said the Virginia Court of Appeals typically allows trial attorneys to withdraw and the defendant to represent himself in such cases.
Once the defendant writes his own appeal, the prosecutor is allowed to write a brief in opposition, according to Fleenor.
Clark is serving a 320-year, jury-imposed sentence for convictions of two counts of rape, one count of forcible sodomy, two counts of inanimate object sexual penetration and two counts of abduction.
Meredith is serving 52 years for convictions of brandishing a firearm, two counts of possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, conspiracy to commit escape, possession of a silencer, attempted escape, two counts of misdemeanor destruction of property and solicitation to commit murder.
The Virginia Supreme Court also has rejected Clark’s appeal.
"We are very pleased that the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have upheld the convictions we obtained from two Pulaski County juries,” Fleenor said. “… These are two of the most dangerous individuals that I have prosecuted in Pulaski County in the last few years. Now that these convictions are final, they will most likely spend the rest of their lives in prison where they belong."
In its decision to deny the appeals, the Court of Appeals ruled that both men’s appeals are “wholly frivolous.”
Clark contended the local court erred in his case because it:
• Didn’t recognize an “implied motion for retrial” even though no motion for retrial was made during the actual trial;
• Should have allowed Clark to represent himself “before and during” sentencing.
• Allowed the prosecution to question Clark regarding prior convictions. “In fact, (Clark) mentioned his prior convictions in direct examination during his trial testimony,” the court ruling states, also noting that there were no objections made on behalf of the defendant at the time of the trial.
• Allowed a juror to withdraw due to illness. No objection was made at trial. The appeals court points out that the defense attorney specifically stated, “we have no objection in excusing her.”
• Evidence was insufficient to warrant a finding of guilt.
• There were no black jurors on the jury and some of the jurors knew the victims. The appeals court notes that the defense did not object to the composition of the jury.
Meredith contends the local court erred in allowing him to represent himself in the case “because the trial court’s questions to him showed that his request was not clear and unequivocal.”
The appeals court points out that the trial judge held two hearings on Meredith’s request to represent himself and twice advised Meredith it was “unwise” to not have legal representation. It also notes that Meredith indicated he understood and still wanted to represent himself.
“The record establishes that (Meredith) made his request in unambiguous and precise terms on more than one occasion,” the ruling states.

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Appeals denied for Clark, Meredith

Appeals have been denied for two men serving combined 372-year prison sentences for convictions handed down by Pulaski County juries.
The appeals were unique in that in both cases, the defendants represented themselves in the appeals after their attorneys filed motions “asking to be removed from the case because they could not find a legitimate issue to appeal,” said Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor.
Fleenor said James Ferlon Clark and Ronald Layne Meredith II were allowed to represent themselves based on a Supreme Court ruling that a person has a constitutional right to represent himself. He said the Virginia Court of Appeals typically allows trial attorneys to withdraw and the defendant to represent himself in such cases.
Once the defendant writes his own appeal, the prosecutor is allowed to write a brief in opposition, according to Fleenor.
Clark is serving a 320-year, jury-imposed sentence for convictions of two counts of rape, one count of forcible sodomy, two counts of inanimate object sexual penetration and two counts of abduction.
Meredith is serving 52 years for convictions of brandishing a firearm, two counts of possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, conspiracy to commit escape, possession of a silencer, attempted escape, two counts of misdemeanor destruction of property and solicitation to commit murder.
The Virginia Supreme Court also has rejected Clark’s appeal.
"We are very pleased that the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have upheld the convictions we obtained from two Pulaski County juries,” Fleenor said. “… These are two of the most dangerous individuals that I have prosecuted in Pulaski County in the last few years. Now that these convictions are final, they will most likely spend the rest of their lives in prison where they belong."
In its decision to deny the appeals, the Court of Appeals ruled that both men’s appeals are “wholly frivolous.”
Clark contended the local court erred in his case because it:
• Didn’t recognize an “implied motion for retrial” even though no motion for retrial was made during the actual trial;
• Should have allowed Clark to represent himself “before and during” sentencing.
• Allowed the prosecution to question Clark regarding prior convictions. “In fact, (Clark) mentioned his prior convictions in direct examination during his trial testimony,” the court ruling states, also noting that there were no objections made on behalf of the defendant at the time of the trial.
• Allowed a juror to withdraw due to illness. No objection was made at trial. The appeals court points out that the defense attorney specifically stated, “we have no objection in excusing her.”
• Evidence was insufficient to warrant a finding of guilt.
• There were no black jurors on the jury and some of the jurors knew the victims. The appeals court notes that the defense did not object to the composition of the jury.
Meredith contends the local court erred in allowing him to represent himself in the case “because the trial court’s questions to him showed that his request was not clear and unequivocal.”
The appeals court points out that the trial judge held two hearings on Meredith’s request to represent himself and twice advised Meredith it was “unwise” to not have legal representation. It also notes that Meredith indicated he understood and still wanted to represent himself.
“The record establishes that (Meredith) made his request in unambiguous and precise terms on more than one occasion,” the ruling states.

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