Judge: No venue change yet for mur­der re­trial

There would have to be dif­fi­cul­ties in find­ing im­par­tial jury, he says.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Claire Os­born cos­born@states­man.com Harmel

A judge said he will only move the sec­ond trial for a man ac­cused of killing a woman in 2009 out of Wil­liamson County if there are dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing an im­par­tial jury.

District Judge Rick Ken­non on Thurs­day also set the date of Crispin Harmel’s sec­ond cap­i­tal mur­der trial for May 14, 2018. Harmel’s first trial in 2014 ended in a mis­trial.

Ken­non said Thurs­day that if lawyers couldn’t find enough ju­rors who were un­bi­ased about the case while try­ing to se­lect the jury, he would move the trial.

Harmel has been charged in the death of 27-year-old Jes­sika Kala­her on Sept. 7, 2009.

Ken­non made the an­nounce­ment af­ter a hear­ing on a mo­tion by one of Harmel’s lawyers, Kris­ten Jerni­gan, to move the trial out of the county. Jerni­gan said the case has re­ceived too much me­dia pub­lic­ity, in­clud­ing com­ments from in­flu­en­tial of­fi­cials, for Harmel to get a fair trial in Wil­liamson County.

She pre­sented wit­nesses who said for­mer District At­tor­ney Jana Duty, as well as for­mer County Com­mis­sioner Lisa Birk­man, had said prej­u­di­cial things about the case in pub­lic.

One of the wit­nesses, crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney Robert McCabe, said that when Birk­man had asked for jus­tice for Kala­her’s fam­ily dur­ing a Com­mis­sion­ers Court meet­ing, “she was try­ing to in­flu­ence the pub­lic to cre­ate a prob­lem against Mr. Harmel.”

In a mo­tion, the de­fense also said Duty un­fairly in­flu­enced the case when she was quoted in the Hill Coun­try News news­pa­per in 2013 as say­ing Harmel should never be re­leased into so­ci­ety.



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