Extensive testimony expected in upcoming Kanawha County murder trial

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County prosecutors say it could take at least five days to present evidence against a Clendenin man to a jury in trial that is scheduled to begin Monday.

Joshua Drennen was charged in February 2020.

Joshua Drennen, 28, faces 10 criminal counts including murder, robbery, malicious wounding and carjacking, in connection with a violent crime spree on Charleston’s West Side on Feb. 11, 2020.

During a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Drummond told Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey the state has several days of testimony to present to the jury once the panel is chosen.

“I believe that we anticipate a week,” Drummond said. “Of course a lot depends on cross-examination. We can’t estimate what that will be but our thought for our case is a week.”

Drennen’s attorney John Sullivan told Bailey he expects extensive testimony tied to a mental illness defense that he will present on behalf of Drennen.

“We’re putting on mental illness defense that’s going to take extra testimony and both sides have psychologists that are going to testify,” he said.

Drennen allegedly murdered Barbara Steele, 77, in her West Side home. Drennen then allegedly carjacked a vehicle at the nearby Walgreens parking lot. Police said he then attempted another carjacking before encountering Charleston Patrolman Terrence “Austin” Casto near the Washington Street Go-Mart. Drennen allegedly attacked Casto with a flat iron before Casto shot him.

Bailey did approve a defense motion Wednesday that will separate the guilt phase of the trial from the mercy phase. Sullivan made the motion based on possible testimony from Drennen.

“It is unlikely that he would testify at the trial, the guilt phase of the trial, but if there was a mercy determination made, it’s likely he would testify as to that issue,” Sullivan said.

Drennen, who is currently housed at the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville because of COVID-19 issues at the South Central Regional Jail, will be tested for COVID-19 before the trial begins next week, following an order entered by Bailey.

Bailey also told Sullivan and Drummond to work together on the list of potential jurors to remove those who expressed issues with COVID in a juror questionnaire.

“There were a number of responses from (potential) jurors who had great concerns regarding their health and regarding COVID exposure,” Sullivan said.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning. The trial will take place in the Ceremonial Courtroom at the Kanawha County Courthouse in downtown Charleston.

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