Newly Published Information About Markus Kaarma Could Lead to Another Change of Venue Request [YouTube]
Attorneys for accused killer Markus Kaarma are considering another possible change of venue request after a story about their client's past legal history was published this weekend.
With barely two weeks to go before jury selection in the highly publicized trial is set to begin in Missoula, lead attorney Paul Ryan said he was disappointed that the information published in the Missoulian newspaper may further, in his view, unfairly prejudice the potential jury pool against his client.
"There's a specific law in Montana that restricts this kind of information from coming in because it potentially taints the jury and gets them away from the actual facts of the case," Ryan said. "It stops people from going back 10 years, 20 years, 30 years when someone did something under completely different circumstances, trying to raise it to conformity regarding what the defendant is being charged with today. The judge looked at this very carefully, and he made a ruling that nothing in the past could be raised in this case."
Ryan does not dispute the accuracy of the information in the article, but he does say the media coverage in the trial has been completely one-sided.
"Under the rule of law when that kind of information comes out, it's really disappointing," he said. "It would be like us bringing up stuff about Diren Dede, and there's all kinds of things that we could bring up with him, but we're restricted from doing that. How is it fair for them to bring up prior information about our client, yet, Diren Dede, who has a history himself, we can't say anything about. Apparently, the Missoulian finds it only appropriate to go into the background of our client, yet not to look at the entire picture. There are a lot of burglaries that the police department has done nothing about, yet they're making a decision as to what they choose to write about and not, and that's what's really disappointing."
Ryan said the new information may force yet another venue change request.
"On a change of venue motion, you can actually bring it up on the day of the trial," he said. "We'll analyze it as a team, and make a decision."
Ryan was careful not to say the newspaper should not have published the article, but that the information in the article may affect what goes on in court.
"When there's true information, that will come out, " Ryan said. "But, when it's allowed in court, that's a whole different thing. When it's misinformation, that's even more problematic. We've said in the past that we believe there has been a great deal of misinformation in the media about this case. We've tried to adhere to very strict standards on our side of what can and can't come in within the media and what can and can't come in in the court process."
Ryan said all parties involved are working for a fair trial.
"The state, the defense and the judge are all striving for a fair trial," Ryan said. "If we lose and it was a fair trial, that's the way it is. If we win and it's a fair trial, that's the way it should be, but when it's a tainted process, that's where we should have a problem with it, every member of this community."
Kaarma has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in the shooting death of German exchange student Diren Dede, who was killed on April 27 while allegedly looking for alcohol in Kaarma's garage while the door was partially open.
The trial is scheduled to begin on December 1 in Missoula District Court, and last at least two weeks, with Judge Ed McLean presiding.
Judge McLean has already denied one defense request for a change of venue.