Judge: No venue change yet for murder retrial
There would have to be difficulties in finding impartial jury, he says.
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.