(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
Attorneys appeared before Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell for pre-trial motions in the matter of Matthew Wayne Patterson, who has been charged with reckless homicide in connection with the death of 39-year-old Anthony Kent "Rooster" Marlin of Flat Creek in August 2009.
Trial dates in the case are set for June 28, 29 and 30.
Patterson's attorney, John Norton, had filed a motion that requested persons not be allowed to wear T-shirts, buttons or any communication that could be visible to jurors during next month's trial.
Last month, member of Marlin's family packed the first three rows of seats at the Bedford County courthouse, all wearing identical T-shirts with Marlin's picture, bearing the words "Exodus 20:13," which reads in most editions of the Bible as "Thou shalt not kill."
Three of the four people who were present for Friday's court session were wearing the T-shirts.
Judge Russell said if he allowed the T-shirts during the trial, "any conviction would be reversed by the Court of Appeals, in my opinion."
Assistant District Attorney Mike Randles said that members of Marlin's family wear the shirt in memory of the victim, and it has explained to them that there are unintended consequences by wearing them.
Russell said he was sure that the Marlin family would not want a conviction thrown out because of what they are wearing on the day of the trial, "because I believe that's what would happen."
Randles said that would be his "great concern as well," with Russell stating the motion would also apply to persons supporting Patterson.
"I don't want any T-shirts that say 'It was just a wrestling match' or 'wrestling isn't murder,' or something like that," Russell explained. "It's got to go both ways."
Russell's order bars anyone from having wearing any apparel that could be visible to jurors or potential jurors that make reference to the alleged victim, his death, how he may have died, the date of death, any remembrance or memorial of Marlin's life or "any representation concerning the activity(ies) in which the parties were engaged in at the time of the death of the alleged victim."
Marlin's sister, Lisa Spray, told the T-G that she understood the judge's ruling "up to a point." Barbara Thompson, the mother of the victim, said she wears the shirts in memory of her son.
Another part of Russell's order states that prosecutors will not present at the trial or make any reference to evidence or statements by Patterson to Marlin, except those revealed by the state in the discovery process, without first presenting the evidence to Russell in a hearing to present it to a jury.
Marlin's death took place at a party last Aug. 25 at the residence of Phillip Powell on Dunnaway Road.
According to Det. Sgt. Scott Jones of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, a number of people attended the gathering and as the night went on, people began to leave, but some stayed into the early morning hours of the 26th, including Marlin, who the detective described as "messing around all night ... just having a good time, drinking and carrying on."
But Jones said that Marlin and the others at the party apparently had too much to drink, and "one thing led to another."
Marlin was in the back yard "dancing around" and according to witnesses at the scene, Marlin fell down and Patterson allegedly jumped on top of him and put Marlin in a headlock -- staying on him for 10 to 15 seconds, the detective said.
"At that point, they (the witnesses) thought they were just playing, but then they realized he's (Marlin) not breathing," Jones explained.
The partygoers took Marlin to the patio of the home and dialed 911, with emergency medical personnel starting CPR on arrival, but Marlin was later pronounced dead at Heritage Medical Center.
Sheriff's officials ordered an autopsy and after a wait of several months, medical examiner Dr. Bridget Evtenier ruled the death a homicide, with the cause attributed to "blunt force trauma to the head and neck."
Following this medical determination, Jones, Det. Sgt. Brian Farris and assistant district attorney Mike Randles visited Dr. Evtenier and went over the case with her in detail to learn exactly how Marlin died.
After that meeting, the case was directly presented to the Bedford County grand jury and Patterson was indicted.
Marlin's sister said last month that she does not accept that explanation.
"Everybody says 'oh, it's an accident,'" Spray said. "Well, if you are choking somebody out, how is that an accident? If you are fighting, how is that an accident?"
Norton told the T-G in February that his office had uncovered "some interesting things," about the case and that Patterson had consulted with him the day after Marlin's death.
At the time, Norton said that he had determined there was no criminal conduct involved in the death.
"Therefore, we closed our file, and we were quite shocked when he was indicted by direct presentment," Norton said at the time.