By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Ninth Judicial District Judge Stephen Quinn on Wednesday granted a defense motion to change the venue of the trial of a Portales man accused of killing his uncle and aunt in March 2004.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Jones of Santa Fe argued that people in Clovis and Portales have already formed an opinion because the case has been heavily reported in the Clovis and Portales newspapers.
“People knew the case and made up their minds about the defendant,” Jones said after the court proceedings.
Jerry Fuller, 33, of Portales is charged with killing Odis and Doris Newman of Portales. Fuller is the Newmans’ nephew by marriage. The bodies of the elderly couple were discovered in the trunk of a burned vehicle in the early morning hours of March 2.
Prosecutors agreed with defense attorneys not to have the trial in Roosevelt County, but felt they could get an impartial jury in Curry County.
Quinn told attorneys he would like to have the trial in Roswell.
“We need to move this out of Roosevelt County,” Quinn said after listening to the attorneys’ arguments. “I was concerned with Curry County, too. We need to move it out of the district (Roosevelt and Curry counties).”
Jones said a survey estimated that 96 percent of people in Roosevelt County knew about the case, as did 89 percent in Curry County, and 79 percent in De Baca County. Jones said he thought the percentages of the people who made up their minds about the defendant’s guilt or innocence was 74 percent in Roosevelt County, 59 percent in Curry County and 36 percent in De Baca County. Jones said 300 people were polled from each county.
Quinn also granted the defense’s motion for a continuance.
The trial was scheduled to take place in mid-June. During court proceedings on Wednesday, attorneys discussed whether to have the trial late this year or in the beginning of 2007. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Jones asked for the continuance because he said he didn’t receive audio and video tapes and CDs with statements from Fuller from the District Attorney’s office until April 17 and has not had enough time to review them to prepare his motion to suppress evidence and statements from the trial.
Quinn asked the attorneys to agree on a date for the motion-to-suppress hearing. The hearing was supposed to be Wednesday and today. Today, Quinn will listen to 60 motions on the Fuller case at the Roosevelt County Courthouse.
Stanley Bedford, 42, of Portales and Fuller were each indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the Newmans’ deaths in late March. In June prosecutors entered their motion to seek the death penalty.
Bedford’s trial is also scheduled for six weeks, beginning in September.