Ashley White to have judge trial, no jury

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PULASKI (WSLS 10) - Ashley White's trial began Monday, but it will now start all over again Thursday in front of a different audience.

Tuesday night, Judge Bradley Finch made the unusual decision to grant a change of venue request.

He said after 60 percent of potential jurors were disqualified, largely for prejudice, a jury trial should happen elsewhere.

Finch told the court that 20 jurors had fixed opinions already or knew they could not be impartial. 11 had been active on social media regarding the case. Six personally knew Noah or had helped search for him last year. Eight felt that White should be charged with murder, not just child abuse and neglect, or that she should be required to prove her innocence.

Moments later, the prosecution asked for a bench trial in Pulaski County instead of a jury trial. The defense agreed.

That means Finch will now decide White's fate.

Legal experts said both sides could view this as a victory, but the lack of a jury most likely benefits the defense more.

Radford University criminal justice professor Jack Call said, "If, under the law, the parents are not legally responsible, then obviously the right outcome should be that they would be acquitted, and that might be an easier judgement for a judge to make than it would for jurors."

Commonwealth Attorney Mike Fleenor said he believes the facts are the facts, and he has confidence Judge Finch will give both sides a fair trial.