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Similar crime evidence refused in lawyer death case

The jury hearing the case against a man accused of running down and killing a Roanoke lawyer will not get to hear about a similar vehicle assault that occurred two days later.

Circuit Judge William Alexander excluded the evidence late today in the trial of Jeffery Young, the man charged with murder in the death of Tom Farrell.  Farrell, a partner at WootenHart in Roanoke, was struck and killed last year as he jogged on a residential street.

There were no witnesses to Farrell’s death, but two days later Young allegedly was seen driving a car that struck a woman in a supermarket parking lot.  Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Leach argued evidence of the similar crime should be admitted to show Young’s intent to cause injury with his car.

Alexander noted the similarities between the two incidents, but held they were not similar enough under Virginia case law.   To allow the evidence, the judge said, would invite the danger of the jury basing a conviction on another crime.

The prosecution’s case against Young relies almost entirely on circumstantial evidence, but numerous witnesses saw Young working on his damaged car the day of Farrell’s death. The jury did hear from a woman who said Young seemed to stalk her with his car in a later incident.

If the prosecution’s evidence is deemed sufficient for jury consideration, the defense plans an insanity defense.

By Peter Vieth

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