Suspect in Lauren Burk slaying appeals denial of change of venue request

Courtney Lockhart, accused of the March 2008 death of Auburn University student Lauren Burk, has filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court appealing a lower court’s decision to deny a change of venue in his capital murder case.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys, however, agree that the pending appeal will not affect preparations for the Nov. 8 trial.

Lockhart appeared in a light tan dress shirt, dress pants and a tie for a status hearing on Monday before Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker. He faces a capital murder charge in connection with the death of Lauren Burk, an 18-year-old Auburn University freshman found lying along a state highway with a gunshot wound in March 2008.

Defense attorney Jeremy Armstrong, who represents Lockhart, told Walker that he filed the appeal with the high court on Friday.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Robbie Treese said he didn’t want attorneys to think the appeal would delay the case.

“The state intends to go to trial no matter what happens,” Treese said.

Armstrong noted that even if Lockhart’s request is granted, it could be lifted before trial. His defense team will be ready for trial, he added.

Attorneys also discussed a questionnaire potential jurors will receive before trial and a cover letter sent with the questionnaire. Armstrong had alternates to both he wanted sent, though prosecutors objected to both, saying the defendant and deceased were both identified.

Walker chose to use a questionnaire approved by appellate courts. Concerning the cover letter, Walker said the jurors contacted would be for all cases scheduled for trial and not just for Lockhart’s.

Armstrong pointed out that a number of pretrial motions remain pending, and Walker set another hearing for Oct. 19.

Lockhart is charged with three counts of capital murder in the robbery, kidnapping and attempted rape of Burk. The Marietta, Ga., woman had a gunshot wound when she was found lying in the roadway of Ala. 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 said 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.