Appeals court vacates change of venue order

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- The Alaska Court of Appeals has vacated a ruling that would have moved a Ketchikan man's third murder trial to Juneau.

Jose ''Che'' Mateu's two previous trials in Ketchikan ended in hung juries. Mateu, 19, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the killing his father, Jose R. Mateu, on Jan. 13, 2000.

The elder Mateu was shot in the back of the head at his home. Alaska State Troopers discovered Mateu's body the next day. Che Mateu was charged with the crime seven months later.

In a victory for prosecutors, Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled that the third trial should be moved to Juneau. She said she was ''not satisfied that Che Mateu would receive a full and fair trial'' in Ketchikan.

Collins made the decision after a week of jury selection for the third trial. Jury selection began Feb. 3.

State law states that the trial should be held in the city where the crime was alleged to have taken place unless ''there is reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be had'' there.

The appeals court said in vacating Collins' decision it needed more information about why she wanted the trial moved to Juneau.

Collins had said previously that she was concerned by comments made by several prospective jurors who said they could not stop people outside the courthouse from sharing their opinions on the case.

''There are people in this community who somehow feel a need to have their opinions known,'' Collins said.

Collins said on two occasions during the second trial signs urging jurors to convict the defendant were placed in the courthouse and on a vehicle along the highway.

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