The trial of a man accused of killing a Charleston police officer has been moved to late March. Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey on Monday granted a motion to continue the murder trial of Joshua Phillips until March 28.
Phillips is accused of shooting Patrolman Cassie Johnson, 28, during an altercation on Garrison Avenue on Dec. 1, 2020. She died at Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital two days later.
Kanawha County public defender Ronni Sheets, who represents Phillips, had asked Bailey to move the trial out of Kanawha County, citing media coverage in the case.
“There has been a great deal of media coverage and social media activity regarding this case,” Sheets and co-counsel John Sullivan wrote in the November motion. “This has included a live television broadcast of Officer Johnson’s funeral and ongoing coverage and publicity regarding memorial events. There has not only been media activity memorializing Officer Johnson, but a considerable amount of content portraying the defendant in a negative light and presuming his guilt.”
According to the motion, the defense planned to hire an expert to conduct a change-of-venue study in the case, to include social media research and a telephone survey of Kanawha County residents. The motion says the study was unlikely to be completed by an earlier pretrial date and possibly wouldn’t be complete by Monday’s trial date.
Phillips is charged with murder, conspiracy, drug charges and illegally possessing a concealed firearm. He has pleaded not guilty.
A pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for March 15.