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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Richard T. Gordon Murder Trial to continue as scheduled

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fulton County Sheriff deputies walk Rick Gordon, 61, of Viola to his arraignment at the Fulton County Courthouse on Oct. 13. Gordon was arrested on Sept. 3 for the first-degree murder of Joseph Clifton, 32, of Viola.
The trial of a Viola man accused of murder will be held next month in Salem, as scheduled.

That was the ruling of Circuit Judge Tim Weaver during a Monday, Aug. 16 hearing.

Richard Gordon, 61, was arrested in September of 2009 in connection with the shooting death of his neighbor, Joseph Clifton.

Gordon and Clifton. 32, had been involved in an ongoing dispute over Clifton's decision to put a locked gate across the road to his home. Gordon claimed Clifton had illegally blocked a public roadway.

In July, Gordon's attorneys made a motion for a change of venue on the grounds the small population in Fulton County made it "impossible to empanel a jury able to set aside what they have heard and try the case impartially."

In court this week, the defense called Viola resident Arwin Plymale as a witness.

Plymale testified that he knows the Gordon and Clifton families, has heard the case discussed in public and believes "justice may be better served if it (the trial) was moved."

Plymale said he based his opinion on the fact he knows the Gordon family "got many threats" after the shooting and remains afraid for its safety.

Under cross examination, Plymale admitted he did not know what residents of Wheeling, Union, Cherokee Village, and other areas of the county know or feel about the shooting.

Fulton County Prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee told Judge Weaver that, while the defense had highlighted possible prejudice against Gordon in Viola, it had not proved "countywide prejudice" exists against the defendant, as required by law.

Judge Weaver agreed, turning down the defense request for a change of venue.

Defense attorney Jeff Rosenzewig, of Little Rock, told the judge that he might reinstate the change of venue request if, during jury selection, it becomes apparent a majority of Fulton County residents are prejudiced against Gordon.

Judge Weaver agreed to reconsider, "if we get to the point we cannot pick a jury."

Judge Weaver left the scheduled trial date in place.

Jury selection is to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 8:30 a.m.

During the court hearing, the prosecution agreed not to introduce as evidence any statements made by a three- year-old child who witnessed the shooting.

The defense, in turn, agreed the prosecution has the right to inform the jury of comments Gordon made to his wife after the shooting.

While Gordon has been found to be mentally competent to stand trial, Rosenzweig told the judge he intends to present evidence of Gordon's "diminished mental capacity" at the time of the shooting.

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