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Legal battle brewing ahead of murder trial for Westerville man

Matheau Moore is charged with murder in the death of his wife, Emily Noble, who was reported missing in May 2020 and found months later in a wooded area.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Prosecutors in the trial against Matheau Moore, the Westerville man charged in the murder of his wife, are calling the trial court’s attitude “unreasonable, arbitrary and unconscionable” for not granting a request to continue the trial.

This all comes in court documents filed in the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Delaware County Thursday.

Moore is set to go on trial Tuesday in the murder of Emily Noble. She was reported missing in May 2020. Her body was found in a wooded area months later, in September 2020. Investigators say her death had been staged to look like a suicide.

And that assertion is at the center of a legal battle now brewing days before the trial.

According to court documents, it started on July 25, just one day shy of the deadline for providing opposing counsel any expert reports. On that day, prosecutors received a copy of an expert report by forensic anthropologist Dr. Heather Garvin. According to court documents, Dr. Garvin believes suicide cannot be ruled out as a cause of Noble’s death. The state’s motion claims the defense received Dr. Garvin’s report more than 300 days prior to it being turned over to the state.

On. Aug. 5, the state filed a motion for a hearing to compel the defense to offer facts and underlying data supporting the doctor’s opinion. That hearing happened on Wednesday, with what prosecutors say was less than 24 hours notice. They requested a continuance on that hearing and for the trial date to be vacated. The judge denied both requests.

After that hearing, the state filed an official motion to continue the jury trial, arguing prosecutors should be given more time to find their own expert witness to refute Dr. Garvin’s assertion that suicide cannot be ruled out in Noble’s death.

“The state is only in this position due to the timing of the defense disclosures,” the motion states. “Had the report been disclosed earlier, these issues would have already been litigated.”

But, by the end of the day, the judge had denied that motion, meaning the trial would continue as planned.

In his judgment entry, he wrote that he is not willing to grant another continuance.

“The parties have had ample time to prepare for the trial since the State filed charges in the case nearly 14 months ago,” his order states. “I have granted three prior trial-continuance requests and had generously accommodated the parties’ scheduling needs every time the starting date for the trial has been pushed back.”

But prosecutors were not willing to accept that. On Thursday, they filed an appeal with the Fifth District Court of Appeals.

“The trial court did not address the merits or substance of the request,” the motion states. “Instead, the trial court mechanically noted that the case has been continued previously. That failure to consider the merits of the request is a clear abuse of discretion. The trial court’s attitude is unreasonable, arbitrary and unconscionable. It is not rooted in any reason or analysis individual to the stated reasons for the request, nor does it address the substance of those reasons. In fact, the reasons are never even acknowledged.

The State understands it is a significant request asking this Court to intervene in a case with a trial set to begin in five days. Unfortunately, the trial court’s steadfast refusal to consider the merits of the continuance has left the State with no other option. The State prays that this Court will grant leave to appeal to address this abuse of discretion and to allow the State to have an opportunity to present a complete, just set of facts to the jury.”

Now it is up to the appeals court to make a decision. But, for now, the case is still set for trial on Tuesday.

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