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COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN APPEAL OF MURDER CASE


Publication: CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL
Published: Thursday, September 16, 2010
Page: 2A
Byline: JARED HUNT DAILY MAIL CAPITOL REPORTER

The state Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a Jackson County man's appeal of his first-degree murder conviction in the brutal beating death of his wife at the couple's home three years ago.


Steven J. Mahood, 41, of Statts Mill is serving a life sentence without mercy following his October 2008 conviction for beating his wife, Ramona, to death in August 2007.


At trial, prosecutors said Mahood used the couple's car and a broom handle as various instruments during the lengthy assault. Mahood, who did not testify at his trial, told police his wife had gone out that night and came home beaten.


Lee Benford, Mahood's attorney, appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court on the grounds that then-Prosecuting Attorney Shannon Baldwin improperly asked a witness about an alleged affair she had with Mahood that had ended years earlier.


Benford objected at the time, saying the line of questioning was inadmissible and prejudicial.


According to the trial transcript, Baldwin admitted in a sidebar hearing with the trial judge that she didn't have any evidence or knowledge that the affair had played a role in starting the fight that led to the murder.


The trial judge ruled the testimony stricken but did not grant a mistrial.


Before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Benford argued that Baldwin's intentional introduction of inadmissible evidence amounted to prosecutorial misconduct and was grounds to reverse the murder conviction.


Assistant Attorney General Robert Goldberg, arguing on behalf of the state, said while the prosecutor may have been "not particularly bright" in introducing evidence that had nothing to do with the facts of the case, it did not present grounds for reversal based on an overwhelming amount of forensic evidence taken from the defendant's home.


Benford agreed there was overwhelming evidence in the case but argued "overwhelming evidence does not excuse prosecutorial misconduct."


Justices will issue a decision at a later date. Justice Thomas McHugh, father of current Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney James McHugh, was excused from the case.


Mahood is serving his sentence at Mount Olive Correctional Center.


Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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