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Death row inmate appears in court

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Photo/Tammy Curtis Steven Victor Wertz is escorted by Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts and Jailer Stanley Haney into the Sharp County Courthouse on Aug. 1, where he appeared before Circuit Judge Harold Erwin for his second Rule 37 hearing. Wertz was sentenced to death by lethal injection in July 2007 for the shotgun murders of Terry and Kathy Watts of Ash Flat. Wertz's motion to relieve his legal council was denied by the judge.
Convicted death row inmate Steven Victor Wertz was in Sharp County Circuit Court on Monday, Aug. 1, for his second Rule 37 hearing.

Wertz was taken to the courtroom on a walker, with the assitance of Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts and Sharp County jailer Stanley Haney.

He appeared before Circuit Judge Harold Erwin for his hearing. Wertz's court appointed attorneys Bill Putnam and Jeff Mitchell were also present.

The first Rule 37 hearing was held Oct. 20, 2008. Wertz was sentenced to death by lethal injection during a July 2007 trial.

The hearing involved Wertz's request to remove his attorneys under claims that one of his attorneys is "loud, obnxious and profane." He told Erwin that the hearing was only the second time he "has seen this man." The attorney admitted he can be profane but said that, if he were to remain as legal counsel for Wertz, he would present his case in an orderly manner.

Erwin denied Wertz's motion to dismiss his legal council on the grounds of ineffective council. The attorneys were assigned to Wertz's case through the Arkansas Public Defenders Office. Inmates on death row are entitled to Rule 37 hearings, which in some cases, allows them to have new trials if it is determined their council was ineffective during the initial trial.

Wertz was convicted of the 1986 murder of Terry Watts, 25, and his wife Kathy, 22. Special Prosecutor John McQuary led the case against Wertz during the July 2007 trial.

During the trial, McQuary called James Snyder to testify against Wertz. Snyder was charged as an accomplice in the murder. McQuary also called Wertz's wife at the time, Belinda, to the stand. Belinda testified she had previously lied about Wertz's whereabouts the night of the murder.

Belinda was Terry Watts' first wife, who, after divorcing Watts, married Wertz. Wertz and Belinda had lost a custody battle over Belinda's 5-year-old daughter just before the murders occurred. When the bodies of the couple were discovered, their 11-month-old son was found unharmed, sleeping between his father's legs.

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