Lawyers for a Montgomery County man charged with murder for setting a boy on fire 16 years ago plan to seek a change of venue due to the attention of the case.
Donald Collins entered a not guilty plea during a hearing in Conroe Thursday. He maintains his innocence in the 1998 attack against Robert Middleton, though he was already held as a juvenile in the case.
“There is no actual evidence Don Collins burned Robbie Middleton,” says defense attorney E. Tay Bond. “There wasn't back 13 years ago, and there isn't actual evidence of that now.”
Bond says he understands the community wants someone to pay for the tragic event, but insists his client is innocent.
“We think that the charges at this point do violate his constitutional protection, and I think if he is convicted in adult court we will win on appeal,” he tells KTRH News.
Prosecutor Phil Grant argues Middleton's sworn video deposition, taped before his death, proves Collins' guilt of not only setting him on fire on his 8th birthday, but sexually abusing him two weeks earlier.
“I think the most difficult aspect of the case is making sure that Robert Middleton's voice gets heard through it all,” Grant told reporters outside Thursday's hearing.
“We feel confident that if the judge does grant the change of venue motion that we'll be able to present this case effectively no matter where we are in Texas,” said Grant.
Middleton's mother agrees.
“The truth is going to be the truth no matter where we go, so I'm fine with a change of venue,” said Colleen Middleton.
Middleton died in 2011 of skin cancer that doctors blamed on his injuries. The trial is scheduled to start in January.
“We get to a point where we don't think about it all day everyday, and then we have to relive it all over again,” says Middleton's mother. “Its really hard when I stop and I think how much Robert suffered, and how much he went through.”