Judge steps aside, delaying Rusty Mack murder trial
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Feb 10, 2014, 12:56
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — The judge who presided over the cases of three defendants charged in the death of Russell “Rusty” Mack recused himself of handling the trial of Margaret Blair Dacey, the final defendant charged in Mack’s death, following a motion by the commonwealth on Monday afternoon in Colonial Heights Circuit Court.
Tara Mooney, a prosecutor from Stafford who is assisting Colonial Heights Commonwealth’s Attorney Bill Bray on this case, made the motion in an effort to preserve a perception of fairness and impartiality to the public due to the fact that Judge Herbert C. Gill had previously been acquainted with Blair Dacey’s father, Maurice, in a courtroom setting.
Maurice was in and out of the Colonial Heights Circuit Court for decades, testifying as a state trooper in addition to his current occupation as an attorney, with his office located in Colonial Heights.
The motion came just three days before the trial was scheduled to take place in Chesterfield Circuit Court on Feb. 6.
Mooney said that she didn’t want to offend Gill or allege that he was biased, but emphasized a noticeable community interest in the trial and feared that the public might question any rulings made by Gill.
Gill said that because the court had a longstanding rule that judges would not preside over cases involving local attorneys, he would remove himself from the case “out of an abundance of caution,” and ask the Supreme Court to appoint a new judge.
Defense attorney Michael Lee, who was surprised by the late motion, did not object, but rather asked that if the court were to uphold the motion, that they “fix it once” suggesting that the trial be moved to a bigger city with a new jury and a new judge in an effort to “be the most judicious.”
Margaret is charged with murder and malicious assault following an altercation in February of 2013 involving four co-defendants that ended with an injury to Mack’s skull causing his death in the hospital 17 days later.
Jonathan Guy was found not guilty and charges were dropped against the other two defendants, Ashley Mack and Francis Blaha III.
Dacey’s case will be brought up again in Colonial Heights Circuit Court at the next term date on March 4 where her next trial date will be set with a new judge.