Bibb DA agrees to change of venue for McDaniel trial | News
Bibb District Attorney David Cooke says he's agreed to defense lawyers' request to use jurors from outside Bibb County for Stephen McDaniel's murder trial.
McDaniel is the man accused of killing his Mercer Law classmate and neighbor Lauren Giddings in 2011.
"My concern is the integrity of this trial and making sure we don't have to do it twice. We just believe that this is a no-brainer way to avoid an obvious issue on appeal," says Cooke.
McDaniel's lawyer Frank Hogue says he thinks it will be next to impossible to find an impartial jury in Bibb County. He says his team realized that after pre-trial hearings last week. That's when Cooke described online searches McDaniel allegedly had on his computer, such as cannibalism, dismemberment, and molesting a sleeping girl.
Now the defense wants Judge Howard Simms to allow them to bring out-of-town jurors to Bibb, but Simms could also decide to move the trial to a different courthouse in Georgia.
"The only additional cost is a motel room, everything else is the same. You spend just as much time in court. In fact, if we do go somewhere else, the idea is that we'll spend a lot less time in jury selection than we would if we were here," says Hogue.
However, that's just for the defense. Mercer Law professor David Oedel says it's not common for a judge to grant a request like Hogue's, especially because it can cost the county a lot of extra money.
"The judge would go down, and all of the parties trying the case would have to move to whatever this new venue is, and that would involve lawyers on both sides, and there are a number of lawyers in this case, this is a complicated case, and all the witnesses would have to travel down to whatever the site is," says Oedel.
If Judge Simms grants the request, Bibb County would either have to pay hotel and food costs to bring in outside jurors or for rooms and meals for the judge, prosecutors, witnesses, and others working the trial if it's moved outside of Bibb.
Oedel says he's seen Georgia cases that cost taxpayers more than $80,000 to move a trial. The defense team is responsible for its own accommodations.
Simms has not scheduled a hearing date to rule on the change of venue request. Last week, he decided to push back the February trial but has not set a new date.