10/09/2018 - Judge refuses expert testimony in 'Murderer's' trial. Prosecutors accused of missing deadline for notifying defense

Attorneys representing the Woodbridge man accused of killing his wife and a Prince William County police officer won a legal victory Wednesday when they convinced the judge to exclude "all expert testimony" in the ongoing trial based on the prosecutors' failure to provide necessary information to the defense at least 60 days before the proceedings began, as required by Virginia law.

Prior to the beginning of the second day of witness testimony in the capital murder trial of Ronald Williams Hamilton, 34, a hearing took place where defense attorney Gene Hart argued expert testimony should be excluded from the remainder of the trial because Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert and his partners missed the key deadline.

Virginia law requires that prosecutors not only notify defense attorneys of expert witnesses but also provide them with summaries of their expected testimony and any of their written reports.

Ebert's office fulfilled part of that requirement but did not do so until the deadline passed according to the motion in limine defense attorneys filed in Prince William County Circuit Court Sept. 11.

"In the current case, the attorney for the Commonwealth failed to provide any notice of any expert testimony." the brief points out. after four weeks of jury selection in this trial and only after a jury was selected and sworn following those four weeks of jury selection in this trial, did the attorney for the Commonwealth purport to provide inadequate, incomplete and incompetent ‘notice."

The brief continues to argue Ebert's office failed to provide written reports by experts or any summary of testimony the experts might offer on the witness stand.

Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Conway countered that prosecutors have provided the defense with “thousands of documents" in good faith over the last two and a half years since the Feb. 27, 2016, shooting deaths of Crystal Hamilton, Ronald Hamilton’s late wife, and Prince William County police officer Ashley Guindon, who died from wounds she sustained after Ronald Hamilton allegedly trained his AK-47 on her and two other officers who arrived at the Hamiltons' Woodbridge home in response to Crystal Hamilton's 911 call for help.

"Every police report, every certificate of analysis, everything... was provided to the defendant usually years ago," Conway added. "They’ve had this analysis for years, with the exception of the new firearms analysis."

Hart answered saying the Code of Virginia has an entire chapter directing legal proceedings in cases involving the death penalty and said Judge Steven S. Smith could set a bad precedent by not requiring prosecutors to follow those rules in the Hamilton trial.

In siding with the defense, Smith said Ebert, given the number of capital murder cases he has tried successfully, should be familiar with the requirements of the law. Smith further emphasized that death penalty cases "are different" and require "super due process" under the law.

"It is an understatement to say I don’t enjoy being in this position, but I do have to follow the law," Smith added, before delivering his ruling. “I grant the defense in limine motion. The expert opinion testimony will not come into evidence."

Its unclear how the ruling might affect the case. By charging Hamilton with capital murder, prosecutors must prove Hamilton guilty of the "willful, deliberate and premeditated" killing of a law-enforcement officer, meaning the case will likely hinge on the defendant's state of mind during the shooting


After deliberating less than eight hours Wednesday, a jury has declared Ronald Williams Hamilton guilty on all 17 charges in connection with the 2016 shooting deaths of his late wife, Crystal Sheree Hamilton, and Prince William County Police Officer Ashley Guindon.

The 12-member jury, which included 10 women and two men, returned the unanimous verdict in a Prince William Circuit Courtroom about 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Hamilton, an Army staff sergeant who has worn his service uniform to court each day of his trial, stared straight ahead and did not appear to react as the verdict was read.

Three of the 17 charges are for capital murder, meaning that Hamilton, 34, now faces either the death penalty or life in prison in connection with the Feb. 27, 2016, shootings that claimed the lives of Guindon, 28, and Crystal Hamilton, 29.