By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Thomas J. Ward’s depraved heart murder trial, set to begin March 5, is delayed until May 1.
Ward, 25, of Saltillo, is accused in the 2010 shooting death of 20-year-old Anna Catherine McCoy.
The trial date in circuit court of Lee County has changed several times since Ward was indicted in 2010, most recently because both sides said they wanted more time to study one expert witness’ report.
During a pretrial hearing last August, courtroom speculation was that the report focused on firearms.
Prosecutors claim Ward shot McCoy in his home April 15, 2010.
Because there apparently are no other witnesses to McCoy’s death, they must rely heavily on forensic evidence.
Ward maintains he is innocent of the charge, which is defined as a callous disregard for human life that results in death.
If convicted, he faces sentences of life without possibility of parole, or death.
Judge James L. Roberts Jr., who presides over the case, is expected to call for a large jury pool.
Ward’s attorney, Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, contends the trial should not be in Lee County, and last summer Roberts said he will keep his options open about that decision.
It’s not uncommon for judges to retain a trial site and secure a jury pool from another county as an alternative to moving away from where a death occurred.
Last summer, Fleitas told Roberts the publicity surrounding McCoy’s death has been so extensive that his client cannot get a fair trial in Lee County.
More recently, he filed multiple objections to potential state witnesses, whose testimony he claims is hearsay and prejudicial to Ward.