PIKE COUNTY, Ohio — Just when things could not get more interesting, they always do in the trial of George Wagner IV in Pike County.
Wagner, 30, is facing a slew of charges, including eight counts of murder for the 2016 killings of the Rhoden and Gilley families.
On the ninth day of his trial on Thursday, Wagner’s defense attorneys moved for the second time this week for a mistrial. The motion was filed in writing on Thursday morning before the court got underway, alleging that the jury was being overly exposed to gruesome crime scenes and autopsy photos in an attempt by the state to evoke anger against Wagner. The same motion was made verbally on Wednesday but was denied. The Judge also denied the written motion on Thursday.
The day got to a late start because of the new filing when it was well after 9:30 a.m. before the jury was seated; they normally start at 9 a.m.
A former BCI agent named Bryan White — who now works at the Madison County Sheriff’s office — was sworn into the witness chair. White was the agent who processed Dana Rhoden’s house when the bodies were found. The jurors were taken through the scene by the state and were shown the three bedrooms where the bodies of Chris Rhoden Jr., Dana, and Hannah May Rhoden were found.
Agent White talked about how the front door to the home had some minor damage to the hinges, but that he could not rule if the damage was caused during the homicides or existed previously. Jurors, of course, were shown bloody crime scene photos of all three victims shot in their beds. The jury was also shown shoeprints that the agent found using fingerprint powder on the floor of the home. It was not said by the state on Thursday if they believed the shoeprints belonged to Wagner or any of his co-defendants, such as his mother, father, or brother, who are also charged in the murders.
The jury took an early lunch at 11:45 a.m. and came back at 1:30 p.m., and that’s when things got interesting.
Seven media outlets filed a lawsuit against Judge Randy D. Deering, who is presiding over the trial, saying that the judge is illegally barring pictures and videos from the court proceedings whenever he or the state pleases. The suit seeks a restraining order from the appellant court ordering the judge to allow the cameras. The suit was filed while the jury was on their afternoon break. During the break, one of the jurors, who is diabetic, claimed she had a medical issue and was not feeling well. When the judge took the bench again after the break at 2:30 p.m., the lawsuit against him had been filed in his own clerk’s office and the judge dismissed the jury early. No reason was given for the early dismissal in a trial that normally goes after 4 p.m. each day. The state was still in their direct examination of White, so it was unclear if the early dismissal was because the judge was upset about the filing or if the juror felt she needed to go home.
Court will resume on Friday at 9 a.m., where White will resume his testimony. It is also expected that the coroner will be recalled to the stand to go over the autopsies of Dana, Chris Jr., and Hanna.