Motion denied for venue change in cop beating case
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Four former Houston police officers charged in the beating of a teenage burglary suspect argued they couldn't get a fair trial in Houston, but a judge Tuesday denied their request for a change of venue.
Ex-HPD officers Philip Bryan, Drew Reiser, Andrew Blomberg and Raad Hassan are all charged with official oppression for their roles in the violent arrest of Chad Holley, who was 15 at the time, in March 2010. You may remember the controversial surveillance video -- shown first to Houstonians in an Eyewitness News exclusive -- in which officers can be seen hitting and kicking a handcuffed Holley.
During closing arguments Tuesday, defense attorneys for the four former officers said the men cannot get a fair trial due to the case's publicity and because that surveillance video was made public, but prosecutors insisted they can.
Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, who represents Blomberg, described the publicity surrounding the tape as derogatory and incriminating. He said, "The problem with that video is there are explanations for the conduct of those officers, but those explanations have gone by the wayside when a person watches that video."
However, prosecutors asked for change of venue denied, saying defense lawyers haven't proven their argument about publicity.
"If the defense gets their way and motion is granted, you are saying the residents of Harris County are not to be trusted on juries and that our process is flawed; that even under oath, they are going to lie," said prosecutor Clint Greenwood.
"The fact is that there are a lot of people who don't follow the news," said Assistant District Attorney Kaylynn Williford.
Deguerin argued a lot of people watch the news and played 13 Undercover Wayne Dolcefino's exclusive report which aired right after ABC13 obtained a copy of the surveillance tape.
Community activist Quannel X also testified, saying that if Andrea Yates could receive a fair trial in Harris County, so could the officers. Yates' high-profile trial was the subject of testimony Tuesday. The Clear Lake mother was first convicted of capital murder in the drowning deaths of her five children, and she was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Williford, who prosecuted Yates, testified that her case had more publicity than this one, yet she felt Yates received a fair trial. Defense lawyers disagreed, arguing there was no videotape of that crime. They argue the tape is prejudicial because it doesn't demonstrate that the officers were doing what they say they were trained to do.
"There is such a thing as pain compliance, for instance, for someone that is resisting, and it's passive resistance when you use it -- that is clearly what was being done. But it's much more complicated than that," DeGuerin said. "The problem is you gotta get past seeing what happened in order to judge that and I don't think anybody that sees that tape ahead of time could do that."
However, after a day and a half of testimony, the judge late Tuesday morning sided with the state and the change of venue motion was denied.
The judge did rule that defense attorneys will get individual voir dire, which means they'll be able to examine each juror separately and apart from the panel. DeGuerin believes he'll be able to get a much better jury panel that way.
The four officers will not be tried together. Blomberg is the first. His trial is set for April 16, 2012.
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