Defense blames publicity in attempt to move Morva trial
Wednesday, December, 6, 2006; 1:32 AM | Print| |
The court date had been set for this past Wednesday, Nov. 29, for Morva to be tried on 11 charges of attempted robbery in July and August 2005. The cases include the failed armed robbery of the Blacksburg Deli Mart and attempted burglaries of Blacksburg's Freedom First Credit Union, Food Time and Burger King.
On the morning of the trial, however, Morva defense attorney Thomas DeBusk asked Judge Ray Grubbs for a change of location. Backing up his argument with copies of articles about Morva that were published in The Roanoke Times and the Montgomery News-Messenger as well as five DVDs containing news coverage of the defendant, DeBusk told the judge, "I don't think there (have) been this many cases that have gotten nearly as much attention."
DeBusk believes the publicity Morva has recently received will make finding an impartial jury too difficult.
As The Roanoke Times reported Thursday, Nov. 30, "(DeBusk) noted that with the shutdown of Virginia Tech, at least a third of the community was affected by the hunt for Morva."
In opposition, Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch thinks finding an impartial jury in Montgomery County will not be a problem. He also argued that changing the location of the trial based on the fact that people know about Morva's other actions is unreasonable.
Judge Grubbs consented to review the material, but was unready to give an answer.
"We will attempt the seating of a jury here," Grubbs said.
The new trial date is set for March 29. Morva also faces charges of fatally shooting Montgomery County Sheriff's Corporal Eric Sutphin and hospital security guard Derrick McFarland after his escape and the ensuing manhunt that shut down the Virginia Tech campus on the first day of the fall semester. He could be charged with three capital murder charges, but must wait for a trial date to be announced.