A Lee County Circuit Court judge has denied accused killer Courtney Lockhart’s motion for a change of venue, saying that Lockhart’s attorneys have not proved that their client cannot get a fair trial there.
Lockhart is charged with murder in connection to the death of Lauren Burk, an 18-year-old Auburn University freshman who was found dying on the side of a road in March 2008.
Lockhart’s attorneys have argued that because of extensive pretrial publicity, he would not be able to receive a fair trial in Lee County.
Judge Jacob Walker’s ruling cites Cherry vs. State, a 2004 case that is considered the standard for ruling on change of venue motions.
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“The defendant has not met the first prong of the Cherry test for presumed prejudice, which required that the pretrial publicity be ‘prejudicial and inflammatory,’” the ruling said. “The articles regarding this case which were printed in the newspaper and submitted as exhibits to defendant’s motion are not generally editorial or opinion-based. There are, however, public comments attached to many of the on-line articles. The attached public commentary is at times inflammatory, but the defendant has not shown that the internet commentary has been so prejudicial as to deny him a fair jury trial,”
The judge also ruled that Lockhart’s lawyers failed top prove that any of the inflammatory comments were either posted or read by residents of Lee County.
Burk, of Marietta, Ga., had a gunshot wound when she was found lying in the roadway of Alabama 147 between Lee Road 72 and U.S. 280. She died at the East Alabama Medical Center. Police later found her black 2001 Honda Civic burning in Auburn’s Hinton Field parking lot.
Authorities say Lockhart, who was 23 at the time, had a handgun when he forced Burk into her car, made her drive around and disrobe, then robbed her, shot her and left her to die.
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