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home : local news : local news June 28, 2016

4/18/2013 12:58:00 PM
Murder-for-hire trial scheduled to start Monday
Hearing in year-old area case deals with autopsy photos.
The trial of an area man accused of killing a 78-year-old Lawrenceville man more than a year ago is set to begin Monday.

Tyler R. McQueen, 21, Mt. Carmel, will stand trial in the March 2012 slaying of Robert Westall. McQueen is charged with two counts of murder and has been in custody since late March of 2012, being arrested about a week after the alleged crime.

Jury selection will begin at 9 a.m. Monday in Lawrence County Circuit Court and is expected to take up to two days. The trial itself could take another five days. Judge Robert Hopkins will preside over the trial.

McQueen is one of two people charged in connection with Westall's death. Robert Westall's niece, Helen Marie Westall, is charged with solicitation of murder and solicitation of murder for hire. Her trial date is set for May 13.

A final pretrial hearing was held Monday in circuit court. Only two people, apparently members of the McQueen family, Tyler McQueen, attorneys and court officials were present in the courtroom.

Most of the hearing consisted of court-appointed defense attorney Matthew Vaughn reviewing a large number of autopsy photos of Robert Westall.

Vaughn objected to several of the photos on the basis of what he called prejudicial impact. He argued that the purpose of many of the gruesome photos, some depicting internal organs, and others showing large amounts of blood on Robert Westall, are for the purpose of inflaming a jury and urging a jury to rely on emotions.

In his arguments, Vaughn pointed out what he called the invasive nature of some of the photos.

Special prosecutor Michael Vujovich, assisting the Lawrence County state's attorney in the case, said the photos show wounds sustained as a result of knife wounds and shows the extent, depth and gravity of the wounds.

Vaughn also objected to some photos arguing that the prejudicial value outweighed the relevance. One photo showing a shoulder wound depicted a great deal of blood around Robert Westall's face.

Vujovich countered, saying the photo showed how the body was found lying on a bed.

The prosecution agreed to withdraw a few of the many photos, with Hopkins ruling on the rest.

Hopkins denied Vaughn's motions to suppress the some of the photos, saying he would permit the photos being used in the trial subject to possible reconsideration as the trial progresses. He said a final decision would be made outside the presence of the jury.

The pretrial hearing also included Vaughn, the prosecution and Hopkins acknowledging they had received edited versions of CD and DVD interviews. As per a defense motion, objectionable portions were taken out of the interviews.

Both the prosecution and defense have filed a witness list and Vaughn has also filed his exhibit list. The prosecution said it would file its exhibit list by Wednesday.

Both McQueen and Helen Westall have been in jail for the past year in lieu of $3 million cash bond. McQueen is being held in Lawrence County Jail while Westall is being housed in Crawford County Jail. Both have entered pleas of not-guilty to all charges. 

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