MURPHYSBORO — The State’s Attorney Appellate’s Office has filed a motion to deny Gaege Bethune’s defense attorney’s motion to move his client’s trial out of Jackson County.
Bethune, 23, of Marion, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Pravin Varughese, a 19-year-old student who was found deceased in the woods behind the Carbondale Buffalo Wild Wings on Feb. 18, 2014.
In the state’s motion to deny, it says "many people" is not the standard by which a venue can be changed. It says local prejudice must be alleged and demonstrated in order for a venue to be moved. The state says the only way that can happen is through “vior dire,” or a preliminary examination of a witness or a juror by a judge or counsel.
The state says that media coverage of an alleged crime does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that all people living in an area must automatically have prejudice in the case.
“It is also fundamental that jurors need not be totally unaware of the defendant’s case for him to receive a fair trial so long as the jurors can lay aside their impression ... formed on the basis of pretrial publicity and render their verdict based on the evidence presented in court,” the state’s motion reads.
The motion says there are 60,000 people living in Jackson County, and it is likely the court can find 12 unbiased jurors, plus alternatives who have either not been exposed to the defendant’s case or who can lay pretrial publicity aside.
“After all, actual vior dire examination of potential jurors is the best method for determining whether pretrial publicity has resulted in prejudice against a defendant so as to warrant granting his motion for a change of venue,” the motion says.
Chris Bonjean, director of communications at the Office of Illinois Supreme Court, said when a request comes in for an out-of-circuit venue, meaning a different county, usually, that decision is handled by the Administration Office of Illinois Courts in Springfield. He said that would be the office to determine where the proceedings would be moved.
The next hearing in this case is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16.