Rice trial: Hiker can testify in Park murders
Testimony from another hiker can be used by prosecutors in the trial of a man accused of killing two women in Shenandoah National Park, a federal judge ruled.
In a ruling unsealed Tuesday, June 10, at the federal courthouse in downtown Charlottesville, U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon denied a request by attorneys for Darrell David Rice to exclude the testimony of Anthony Coyle, who was camping in the park around the time of the slayings.
Coyle has picked Rice, 35, out of a photo lineup and identified him as being in the park around the time of the 1996 killings of Laura S. "Lollie'' Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, and Julianne "Julie" Marie Williams, 24, of Burlington, Vermont.
Williams was a graduate of Cathedral High School in St. Cloud and Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.
Coyle told a grand jury last year that he while he was on a camping trip with his girlfriend in the park over Memorial Day weekend in 1996, his girlfriend heard women screaming during the night. Coyle said that the next morning, he saw a man standing in a clearing near his campsite, but he left without speaking to Coyle.
According to court papers, Coyle's campsite was about three miles from where the women's bodies were later found.
The defense motion to exclude Coyle's testimony argued that his identification of Rice from a photo lineup was unreliable because it occurred five years after the slayings and some of the photos used in the lineup were "clearly outside of the range of possibilities based on the descriptions Coyle gave.''
But Moon said in his ruling that the eight-picture photo lineup "did include several white men of nearly the same age [as Rice] with similar features.''
In a separate decision, Moon denied the defense's bid to avoid the possibility of the death penalty, saying that Rice's lawyers failed to "demonstrate that any constitutional concerns are raised.''
Williams and Winans were reported missing in late May 1996 after they did not return from a five-day backpacking trip. The women's bodies were found by park rangers at a creekside campsite on June 1, 1996, "bound and gagged, and with their throats cut,'' according to a statement issued previously by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Rice's trial is scheduled to begin July 24.