O’Neal murder trial postponed once again

-A A +A
By Damon Lawrence

The July 9 murder trial for Ralph O’Neal has been postponed.

O’Neal is accused of killing Ronnie Dean Cofer in August 2007.

Cofer’s body was discovered in a ditch on Clax Gap Road. Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said Cofer had been shot.

Assistant District Attorney General Bill Reedy said O’Neal’s lawyer, Bob Vogel, has been accepted to the Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming for a three-week period around that time.

“This is one of those times where everybody agreed to a continuance as a courtesy for me, both Mr. O’Neal as my client and Mr. Reedy as the prosecutor,” Vogel said.

The Trial Lawyers College was founded by Gerry Spence, who served as a legal consultant for NBC during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Vogel said he’s wanted to attend for years.

“We’ll be doing intensive training on trial skills,” Vogel said.

A Roane County grand jury indicted O’Neal for first-degree murder in 2009. Since then, multiple trial dates have been postponed. Reedy said he didn’t object to the latest delay because O’Neal is in jail.

“That’s all we’re concerned about right now,” Reedy said.

The state contends the alleged murder of Cofer was “committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of the defendant, or another.”

If convicted, the state wants O’Neal sentenced to life without parole.

“Mr. O’Neal is innocent,” Vogel said. “There’s no question in my mind having gone through all the evidence.”

O’Neal’s new trial date is Nov. 6. He won’t be going free if he’s found not guilty. U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips sentenced him to life in prison in 2011 for his conviction on federal drug charges.