Wesley Hadsell’s defense team takes advantage of new criminal defense laws


SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Wesley Hadsell’s lawyer is requesting more experts to help the defense build their case as both sides prepare for the murder trial, which is now set for next March 2021 in Southampton County.

Hadsell faces murder charges in connection with the death of his stepdaughter 18-year-old AJ Hadsell, who went missing while home in Norfolk on spring break in 2015.

Interestingly, the only people allowed in the courtroom for Monday’s hearing were the judge and Hadsell’s defense team.

That’s because of new laws that went into effect July 1 regarding discovery in criminal cases.

The laws are an attempt to mitigate the risk of disclosing the defense’s trial strategy. 

“Honestly, it will just help even the playing field. That is really what it’s about,” said Hadsell’s defense lawyer James Ellenson.  

Ellenson says the new laws give more rights to criminal defendants.

Monday’s closed hearing is an example of how the Democratic legislature in Richmond is tackling criminal justice reform. 

“The statute prohibits discussing the specifics of what occurred today. But I think the fact that we’re even able to have a hearing such as this is part of a larger story about criminal justice reform in Virginia,” explained Ellenson after the hearing. “I think that they’re giving defendants more rights and that I think it’s all sort of tied in with this progressive commonwealth’s attorneys movement.”

If the defense ends up using experts during the trial — then everything will be out in the open. 

Hadsell’s first trial ended in a mistrial in February after Hadsell wanted out of a deal reached with the prosecution about mentioning his prior criminal record at trial.

The next trial slated to take place in March of 2021.

Hadsell is expected back in court on Sept. 29 for a full day of motions. 

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