Jury acquits Taylor in Wood County murder trial
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Jury acquits Taylor in Wood County murder trial

Aug 20, 2023

Aug 5, 2023

Defense attorney Ryan Umina, left, places a hand on the shoulder of his client, Derek Taylor, after Taylor was found not guilty of murder in the 2022 death of 30-year-old Cory Friend Friday morning in Wood County Circuit Court. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Derek Taylor’s attorney, Ryan Umina, embraced him after the verdict of not guilty was read Friday morning in Wood County Circuit Court.

Taylor, 40, had been charged with murder in the death of 30-year-old Cory Friend after an altercation in March 2022. After three days of testimony, the jury of six men and six women voted to acquit after about an hour of deliberation.

“We believed from day one that Derek Taylor did not cause Cory Friend’s death,” co-counsel Beth Umina said outside the courtroom.

Friend died on March 26, 2022, five days after being hospitalized hours after an altercation with Taylor at the Terrapin Park Apartments. Friend had allegedly taken Taylor’s girlfriend’s bike and pulled a knife on her, which led to the confrontation.

Testimony indicated Taylor headbutted Friend before the two walked back to a mutual acquaintance’s location. Then Friend walked to his father’s house, where he took a shower and got something to eat before suffering a medical emergency in which he was falling down and losing control of his body. It was initially believed he might have suffered a drug overdose.

A bailiff hands the jury’s verdict to Wood County Circuit Court Judge Robert Waters Friday. The jury acquitted Derek Taylor, 40, of murder in the 2022 death of Cory Friend. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

The cause of death was ruled to be blunt force trauma, and the prosecution argued it was the result of a blow from Taylor. But the defense said there could have been other explanations, including another blow suffered while Friend was at his father’s house.

In addition to first- or second-degree murder, the jury could have found Taylor guilty of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. But they returned a verdict of not guilty, which Beth Umina attributed to understanding the law and applying the facts of the case accordingly.

Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure said he respects the jury’s verdict.

“It was a tough case. We feel bad for (Friend’s) mother,” he said.

Ryan Umina said his client sent his “sincere, heartfelt condolences” to Friend’s family.

“Any loss of life is unfortunate, but justice was served here today,” he said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at [email protected].

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