March 18, 2009 — The detention hearing scheduled for accused murderer Neville Potter Jr. was a no-go Wednesday morning after attorneys brought to light possible conflict of interest issues that V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda J. Hollar said had to be resolved before the case could move forward.
Potter, charged with first- and second-degree murder for the deaths of longtime Mandahl resident John "Jack" Diehl and 24-year-old Marvis Chamaro, was arrested last month on a warrant issued by Superior Court Judge James S. Carroll III. During a recent advice of rights hearing, Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall challenged Carroll's decision to remand Potter without a detention hearing, and gave government attorneys five days to file the proper paperwork. (See "V.I. Has 5 Days To Keep Murder Suspect In Jail.")
But the long-awaited detention hearing did not go as planned Wednesday, as the judge, prosecuting and defense attorneys were periodically locked in sidebar discussions that lasted for about an hour and a half.
"There's a threshold question about conflicts of interests on both sides," Hollar said before the hearing wrapped. "This has to be addressed as soon as possible to make sure that nothing in the case is tainted as we move forward."
Another hearing date was set for April 1.
"Yesterday afternoon, I was doing some research on Mr. Potter's case, and we found that he had two cases in the archives, one from 1997 and one from 1999," prosecuting attorney Jesse Bethel said later. Bethel said he had represented Potter during an arraignment hearing in 1997.
"We have to see whether these conflicts can be cured or waived," he said. "But I might not be able to appear. It also has to be determined if there's a conflict with the Public Defender's Office, and if it's still ongoing. The Public Defender's Office may also not be able to appear, so the question then is whether an independent attorney has to be appointed for Mr. Potter."
Meanwhile, Potter will continue to sit in jail until next month's hearing, Bethel said. Both sets of attorneys have until the end March to file memos addressing the conflict of interest issues.
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