BEDFORD, Va. (AP) - Attorneys representing a man accused of being an MS-13 gang member and slaying a Virginia teen want to relocate his January trial, saying news coverage has biased potential jurors.
Citing court filings, The News and Advance of Lynchburg reports attorney Anthony Anderson says his client 21-year-old Kevin Josue Soto-Bonilla can't receive a fair trial in Bedford County. Soto-Bonilla is one of five men charged with capital murder in the March 2017 death of 17-year-old Raymond Wood.
The filing says a local trial would lack due process because the national dialogue surrounding immigration and the news coverage of the case may have biased potential jurors. However, County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance says he's confident a jury can be seated.
"I believe that the defendants certainly deserves a fair trial but I also think they deserve to be tried in the location where the crime occurred. I believe the citizens of Bedford need the opportunity to hear this case and that of the other co-defendants," said Nance.
Liberty Law professor, Phill Kline, a former Kansas attorney general and district attorney isn't associated with the case but said the defendant's attorney has a right to try to move the case.
"I'm sure there are a lot of protections in place to ensure he gets a fair trial. His attorney will have a right to question perspective jurors about whether they heard anything that has caused a predisposition or bias in case," said Kline.
But he says extensive media coverage doesn't automatically result in a change of venue.
"Generally changes of venue are fairly rare. The judge has to be convinced there is just not a way to seat a jury that is not predisposed in one way or the other in the case."
Three of Soto-Bonilla's co-defendants are scheduled to be tried later this year.
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