A Galveston County judge has agreed to move the trial against last year's Santa Fe High School shooter who killed 10 people – eight students and two teachers – while wounding 13 others.
The decision comes after defense attorneys this week asked for the change in venue due to publicity of the case and scores of social media comments already declaring their teenage client guilty.
“With the number of people that were killed and injured in a community as tight and as small as Galveston County, I am not surprised at all that the judge took the extreme measure to move it out of Galveston County. It really is the right thing to do,” says Houston criminal defense attorney Chris Tritico.
Prosecutors offered letters from local mayors arguing the court could find a fair and impartial jury in Galveston County.
“I don't know how you can stay in the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area and get a jury that hasn't been moved by this case,” says Tritico.
“The Supreme Court has ruled you're not entitled to a jury that knows nothing of the facts, but you are entitled to a jury that is not affected by those facts. And that's the problem here.”
No word yet where the trial will be moved, but Tritico says scheduling, distance and a venue large enough to accommodate families, friends and expected media will all be factors. The city itself must have enough hotel beds and other offerings.
“I don't think that anyone wants to put the victims' families out, but the constitution protects the right of the criminally accused and if we get it wrong, we have to do it again,” he says. “Doing it again is much more problematic for the victims' families than making them travel.”