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Randy Taylor Appears in Court for Pre-Trial Motions Hearing - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Randy Taylor Appears in Court for Pre-Trial Motions Hearing

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The murder trial for the man accused of abducting and killing Nelson County teen Alexis Murphy is set to start in a month.

Randy Taylor appeared in court for a pre-trial motions hearing Monday morning, but details of what happened in court are few and far between. Within about five minutes of the hearing, a motion was granted to remove the public and media from the courtroom, building on a gag order the judge granted back in December. But NBC29 was able to get a copy of court filings that show the defense wants to suppress search warrants.

It's been almost eight months since anyone has seen 17-year-old Alexis Murphy, last spotted at the Liberty gas station in Lovingston August 3. Nelson County prosecutors say Taylor, 48, is responsible for her death, though a body hasn't been found.

Shortly after Monday’s proceedings began, the press and public were asked to leave the courtroom to ensure a fair trial for the defendant. Judge J. Michael Gamble granted the motion, saying in court danger of publicity is acute and it may not be altogether kept from potential jurors.

NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook explains why everything in this case is being kept under such tight wraps.

"I'm sure that the judge is concerned that the prosecutor is concerned that in the suppression hearing that they had there were to be details discussed that they don't want the public to know about," he said.

Snook says the court wants to increase the likelihood of a fair trial. If things are discussed that ultimately won't be admitted in trial, it could affect the right to a fair proceeding.

But court documents suggest a motion to suppress search warrants was at the heart of Monday's closed hearing. The motion that Taylor's attorney filed last week claims several warrants issued in August were “obtained without any valid constitutional basis.”

Snook says what's in the search warrants could prejudice something against Taylor.

"The reason not to put it out there is so that when they call the jurors in the jurors come in and they've already heard that damaging fact, you can't tell them 'just forget about that,'" he said.

But the commonwealth's attorney argued in his response to the defense's motion that the defendant has a burden of proof that has not been met.

Taylor is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and abduction with intent to defile. His trial is slated to start May 1.
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