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Judges refused venue change in third Mateu trial

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins has turned down a prosecution request to move the murder trial of 19-year-old Jose ''Che'' Mateu out of Ketchikan.

Mateu is charged with first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the January 2000 shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu. Two previous trials in Ketchikan resulted in hung juries.

District Attorney Richard Svobodny of Juneau on Tuesday said it would be difficult to find an impartial jury in Ketchikan. He said pretrial publicity, even if not sensational or inaccurate, was a reason to move the trial.

''The issue should not be how fair the reporting was, but instead should be whether it brings information to jurors that they should not have,'' Svobodny said.

Many of the prospective jurors knew there were two previous trials, Svobodny said, a fact the judge has instructed not be brought up at trial.

Fifty-four of 61 of the potential jury members have said they had seen or heard something about the case previously. Most recalled specific details about the case, he said.

Assistant public defender Julia Moudy said the state cannot shop for a new venue because it was unable to get a guilty verdict in Ketchikan.

''Defendants have the right to be judged by the people in their community,'' Moudy said.

Virtually all prospective jurors said they would be fair if seated on the jury, she said.

Collins said that all things being equal, any case that occurs in Ketchikan should be tried in Ketchikan to serve the interests of the witnesses, defendant and community.



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