8/23/10 – By Mary Ingalls and Kat Ingalls
Ventura CA – Judge Campbell ruled today that a jury would be selected from Santa Barbara County and transported to Ventura to hear the case of People v McInerney. Defense had filed a motion for change of venue stating that the jury pool in Ventura had been tainted by the nature and extent of local media coverage. Prosecutor Maeve Fox agreed that there had been pervasive coverage, but that it prejudiced potential jurors against the People’s case.
Ms. Fox specifically cited Raul Hernandez of Ventura County Star as repeating that shooting victim Larry King dressed in ” feminine clothing and told friends he was gay”, like a mantra. LGR reporters have pointed out this copy and paste journalism for months. Fox successfully moved to have approximately 31 paragraphs from the declaration in the change of venue motion stricken as hearsay. Even though the media coverage worked against the prosecutions case, she still urged the Judge to deny the motion for a change in venue stating that it would be a logistical nightmare.
Judge Campbell gave several reasons why a change of venue wouldn’t serve the defendant. He cited a number of “hot button” issues that would evoke an emotional reaction in any jury pool such as equality for gay Americans and Proposition 8. His honor also stated that historically a change of venue was used when the identity of the person committing the crime was in question and said that such was not the case here. “Usually there is a tremendous Who Did it? coverage and in this case it is What is it? coverage.
Defense attorney Scott Wippert made a point of saying that Proposition 8 (Ban on Gay Marriage in California) and other issues mentioned in court would not be a part of this trial, but would be the focus of questioning during jury selection. He will need to ascertain the state of mind of prospective jurors during Voire Dire. Wippert also stated that if he sensed bias from the Santa Barbara County jury pool, another change of venue motion could arise.
When asked about his thoughts on bloggers possibly tainting the jury pool, Wippert asked the public to put themselves in his client’s position. “People who don’t know my client are able to sit behind a computer screen and pass judgment on him. He was only a 14 year old child at the time of the shooting and should be charged with Voluntary Manslaughter.”
Last month after filing a motion to have Judge Campbell recused from this case Wippert said that Judge Campbell was unable to be objective and give his client a fair trial. This morning however he was all praise and gratitude for Judge Campbell stating “The Judge shares my concern for a fair trial”. The recusal motion was denied as well as the appeal. Today we learned that Wippert has filed a motion to have DA Maeve Fox recused from the case.
In previous statements to the local newspapers Wippert said that he doesn’t have a defense prepared, today he took a 180 degree turn and said that he had a “very good defense” and would be presenting evidence and testimony never before heard and that he didn’t mean to give the impression that he had no defense, just not the proper tools to present one.
It appears at this point that the defense dance will continue for at least a few more months before we see an actual trial.