BEND, Ore. - (Update: Judge denies defense motion for change of venue)
A Deschutes County judge on Thursday denied a request by Edwin Lara's defense attorneys to move his murder trial to a different county due to pre-trial publicity.
Circuit Judge Michael Adler rejected their motion, telling the court Lara will get a fair trial in Deschutes County with a fair jury selected.
Thaddeus Betz, one of Lara's attorneys, presented the court with news articles and videos, making the argument that his client can't get a fair trial in Deschutes County due to continuing media coverage possibly tainting the potential jury pool.
"Despite the court's measures to contain the case from gross public distribution and spoliation of potential jury, that has happened here, and the remedy is to simply find a place where there's no risk of that," Betz said.
Betz also said Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel's sharing of evidence with the media last year and a Facebook page in remembrance for Kaylee Sawyer which has 4,000 followers hasn't helped their client to get a fair trial.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson attorney disputed the defense lawyers' argument that there has been an "incredible amount of media attention" on the murder case.
Mary Anderson noted that the court has taken steps to protect the integrity of the murder case, including an order that those involved not comment further publicly.
"This idea of changing venues because there are 4,000 people who are on a Facebook page that have made a conscious decision to like a particular page and be involved in that discussion -- that issue that can addressed through a jury questionnaire," Anderson said.
She said the social media page isn't evidence of a prejudice that is persistent or pervasive enough to keep Lara from getting a fair trial.
Anderson called two witnesses to the stand who conducted a survey of Deschutes and Klamath county residents, asking if they are familiar with the murder case. Another survey focused on how the Bend media markets reported the murder case from July 26 through October 26 of last year.
They said the results showed Portland media outlets more closely covered the Lara case, compared to Bend news outlets.
Adler also struck down the motion to allow Edwin Lara to be free from restraints during court proceedings. The judge also told reporters they are not to use social media or share any information while court is in session or photograph or video Lara entering or leaving the courtroom in shackles, talking with his attorney or photography any images of the lawyers' documents, notes or computer screens.
On Wednesday, Adler denied a request by the Kaylee Sawyer murder suspect to bar media from the courtroom for further proceedings, over photos that included defense lawyers’ computer screens. But he did set guidelines for filming in the courtroom at future hearings.
Lara, 31, Redmond, a former COCC campus safety officer, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for allegedly kidnapping, attempting to sexually assault and killing Kaylee Sawyer, 23 last July in Bend. Lara fled to California, where he was arrested after a string of crimes, authorities said.
Adler heard two motions filed by Lara's attorney, the first to allow Lara not to wear shackles during the trial. Lara appeared in a dark suit for Wednesday’s motions hearing, not the orange jail jumpsuit he’s worn in past proceedings.
The second motion is to restrict media access in the case, in which Adler has sealed most motions filed by attorneys and placed a "gag order" on prosecutors and defense lawyers from publicly discussing the case, set to go to trial in October.
Adler also was expected to address the media about guidelines for social media coverage of the case.
Adler addressed reporters in the courtroom before Wednesday's hearing, saying all recordings must take place when the court is in session and on the record, not during recess or any other circumstances.
Lara defense lawyer Benjamin Kim asked the judge to allow Lara to be free of restraints during all court proceedings.
But the first motion argued was Kim’s effort to further limit media access to the courtroom. His motion, which was among those sealed, highlighted some concerns with The Bulletin taking photos of the defendant walking inside of the courtroom, talking with his defense team and photos that included the defense computer screens.
The defense attorneys asked Adler to restrict all media from any further proceedings. The Bulletin filed a motion to intervene and speak against that motion for Wednesday's hearing.
Adler denied the motion, saying the media has the right to be in the courtroom, but put some guidelines in place.
Later, sheriff’s Lt. Michael Gill took the stand regarding the defense motion to not have Lara in handcuffs or shackles during future proceedings. Gill was asked about the potential security risk Lara poses to the public and court.
The case is the topic of our new KTVZ.COM Poll: Do you believe Edwin Lara can get a fair and impartial trial in Deschutes County? Find the poll halfway down the right side of our home page.