Trial Circumstances: Covering the Randy Taylor Murder Trial

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AArDAzwn8M%5D

On May 1, the murder trial began for Randy Taylor, the man charged in the abduction and murder of 17-year-old Alexis Murphy in Nelson County, Va.

My station decided to have many reporters cover this trial, since many people had a role in covering this story since Alexis’ disappearance in August 2013. Alexis is still missing, and there’s no evidence of her death, but prosecutors chose to proceed with a murder charge in a completely circumstantial case.

I covered Days 4 and 5 of this trial. I’ve learned in covering a number of court cases that every judge runs the court differently. Here, as has become a trend in Central Virginia, phones need to be turned off in the courtroom. The judge would not allow anyone to leave the courtroom unless there was a break. He would not allow anyone to enter the courtroom until there was a break. It was a tight ship, and in television news, that’s not convenient.

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Introducing Virginia’s next governor to viewers

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe thanks his supporters at a campaign party in Tysons Corner, Va., on Nov. 5, 2013.

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe thanks his supporters at a campaign party in Tysons Corner, Va., on Nov. 5, 2013.

It was like a repeat of Nov. 6, 2012. Just a different candidate in a different Virginia city.

The setup at gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign party in Tysons Corner, Va., reminded me a lot of covering Tim Kaine’s party in Richmond last year. However, this year, things became a bit more hectic.

First of all, my station held an election special from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., so that was an additional two liveshots from the party, on top of my 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. hit. Around 9:30, I began gearing up for the 10 p.m. hit. I interviewed Virginia’s House Minority Leader, cut a soundbite and began sending it back to the station. I wrote some bullet points in my notebook that I wanted to touch on in my liveshot. I dabbed some makeup on my cheek to cover up a razor nick from shaving earlier in the morning.

Around 9:50, I tweeted the following:

Live report on WAHU FOX27 in 10 minutes from #McAuliffe HQ. Lots can happen in 10 minutes. #VAGov

I jinxed it.

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From NC to NYC: Virginia Quake Shakes the East

I was sitting in my car after an Old Navy shopping trip and a Smoothie King stop. Then, my car started shaking.

I looked around, and no one seemed to react. I wasn’t sure what I had just felt, so my natural reaction — I tweeted. “Did I just feel an earthquake!?” My phone then exploded with texts from my brother and friends asking if I was OK or alive.

I rushed home, saw the CNN coverage and tried calling work. Couldn’t get through.

I swapped my shorts for jeans, put on my newly purchased Old Navy flip-flops and ran out the door to work. Within 30 seconds of stepping into the newsroom, I was sent to Mineral, Va., the epicenter of the earthquake.

What amazed me most about covering the earthquake was how eerily normal everything appeared. Sure, there was damage from the earthquake — two homes were destroyed, many others heavily damaged — but you had to look hard for the damage. Still, it was very easy to empathize with those who lost a lot, like the Brunson family I interviewed (in the video below).

Mineral is a small town between Charlottesville and Richmond. There aren’t many tall buildings, if any at all. That might not provide much comfort to those with damaged homes, worrying if insurance will cover the cost of repairs, but should something have happened closer to a metropolis like Richmond, there might have been more than the zero fatalities or serious injuries Central Virginia saw.

As far as news goes, it was exciting to cover a major event in our own backyard that had a national impact. But even one week after the quake, the cleanup continues.