Moreau trial moved after defense’s request
December 5, 2011
EAGLE, Colorado – So few prospective jurors had an impartial view of an accused murderer’s guilt or innocence, his murder trial is being moved.
After two days of questioning potential jurors, Richard “Rossi” Moreau’s attorneys asked for a change of venue Monday morning. District Court Judge Tom Moorhead granted the motion.
Of the 23 jurors questioned Monday morning, only five were to be asked to return Tuesday for further questioning. Dozens more were questioned last Friday.
“It does not appear given the jury questionnaires that we will be able to seat an impartial jury, given the amount of public scrutiny and attention the case has received,” said Dana Christensen, one of the two public defenders representing Moreau.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert argued that because it is an Eagle County case, it should be tried in Eagle County.
“When crimes area committed in a county, we want to prosecute them in that county,” Hurlbert told Moorhead.
However, citing the law governing these requirements, Hurlbert told Moorhead that the case meets the standards allowing it to be moved.
Moreau is charged with first-degree murder and seven other felonies in a Nov. 7, 2009, shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail.
Few said they’re impartial
As Moorhead considered the motion, he and the attorneys in front of him worked through the 23 juror questionnaires collected Monday. They had already examined the questionnaires from Friday’s group of prospective jurors.
In open court Monday, they went through Monday’s list name by name, looking for jurors on which they could agree.
Of the 23 reviewed Monday, only five were to be called back for further questioning. The rest were dismissed outright or put into a pile of possibles.
Between the dozens of jurors questioned over two days, Friday and Monday, there were not enough impartial candidates to seat a jury, Moorhead ruled.
“The change of venue is granted,” he said succinctly and matter-of-factly.
Following his ruling, the court declined to say how many of the 450 potential jurors summoned had actually shown up Friday and Monday, or how many had been dismissed out of hand.
The trial’s location changes, but nothing else does. Moorhead will remain the presiding judge, and Hurlbert and Assistant District Attorney Steve Mallory will prosecute while public defenders Christensen and Reed Owens will defend Moreau.
State law requires them to look first at keeping the case within the Fifth Judicial District’s other three counties: Summit, Lake and Clear Creek.
Moorhead asked attorneys for both sides if they objected to moving it elsewhere in the district. Neither Hurlbert nor Christensen did.
“We both thought we could try it in the district,” Hurlbert said.
They’ll be back in court at 10 a.m. Dec. 14 to determine when and where Moreau’s trial will be moved to.
Recent changes of venues
This was the third change of venue in recent memory.
Charles Garrison’s murder case was moved from Summit County to Eagle County. Garrison was convicted of killing his wife and burying her in the backyard. He is asking that his case be reopened.
Jerry Garmany’s murder trial was moved from Lake County to Summit County. He was convicted of killing his wife and stabbing his mother-in-law.
Former town of Vail employee Robert Mach’s murder trial was moved from Eagle County to Clear Creek County where a jury convicted him of killing his wife.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.