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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Amick's lawyer files to withdraw from murder case

Monday, August 22, 2011

Michael Amick
Twenty-two days after an Oregon County jury found Michael Amick, 35, of rural Myrtle guilty of killing his wife's grandmother and setting her house on fire, Amick's defense team filed a motion for a new trial.

Attorneys Dee Wampler and Adam Woody of Springfield cited 66 reasons for a new trial, starting with alleged hearsay evidence by victim Leona Maxine Vaughan's family. The motion was filed July 22.

On Aug. 15, Wampler filed another motion, this one to withdraw as Amick's counsel.

Amick was found guilty July 1 of second-degree murder and arson in the December 2008 shooting death of Vaughan at the home of her daughter, Jackie Risner, in southern Oregon County, a mile north of Randolph County, Ark.

After nearly four days of testimony and six hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Amick of shooting Vaughan six times in the head and burning Risner's home to the ground to destroy evidence. Amick has not yet been sentenced and has been in the Oregon County jail since his arrest three days after Vaughan's murder.

Senior Judge J. Max Price, who presided over the murder trial, will hear the request for a new trial and Wampler's withdrawal at 1 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Oregon County Courthouse.

The defense's motion states that the court erred in allowing hearsay testimony by Kent Risner, Jackie Risner's ex-husband, the last person known to have spoken to Vaughan the morning of her death. Kent Risner said Vaughan appeared nervous when he spoke to her on the telephone, as if someone was in the house with her although no one from the household was home at the time.

Jackie Risner testified that her mother was "intimidated" by Amick, which is why she moved from the Amick property on Highway 142 to Risner's house east of Myrtle.

Wampler objected to the Risners' testimony in court, which was overruled by Price.

Price was assigned to the case after Associate Judge Jo Beth Prewitt asked to be excused, citing friendship with the Risners. Prewitt had not disqualified herself, however, until after signing the probable cause affidavit, the motion states.

During the trial, Price also overruled the defense's objection to evidence presented by the prosecution, led by Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoelner, that Amick's sister, Deanna Amick, had previously filed for an order of protection against Amick. By allowing the evidence, the jury was prejudiced against Amick, according to the motion.

The defense also objected that an arrest record of key witness Jake Mayberry was not allowed into evidence. Mayberry testified he saw Amick's truck in Jackie Risner's yard less than a half hour before he saw the house in flames.

The motion goes on to address issues with certain potential jurors being excused.

About five-and-a-half hours into deliberations, one juror became ill and was replaced with an alternate juror. The motion states the court should have recessed for the weekend and resumed deliberations on July 5.

Ten minutes after the alternate juror entered deliberations, the juror reached the guilty verdicts.

The juror stated in court that she already knew how she was going to vote although she did not participate in the previous hours of deliberation.

She was present during the entire trial.

Amick faces a penalty of 25 years to life in prison without parale. The two sentences will run concurrently.

Amick's attorney, Wampler, served as assistant Greene County prosecutor from 1967-70, prosecutor from 1971-72, and has been in private practice since 1973, specializing in felony criminal trial work.

In 2010, Wampler and partner Joseph Passanise were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 2011 edition of the "Best Lawyers in America."

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