A Thousand Oaks death-penalty defendant’s appeal of the Ventura County grand jury’s racial makeup will be heard April 22 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, a Ventura County judge said Wednesday.
Attorneys for Mark Scott Thornton want charges against their client thrown out on the grounds that the 19-year-old defendant was indicted by a grand jury that systematically excludes Latinos.
Although Thornton is white, his attorneys argued he still has the right to a jury that is representative of the community.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath disqualified himself from hearing the issue because he helps select county grand jury members.
The matter was reassigned to Santa Barbara County Judge Bruce W. Dodds, who asked that concerned parties appear in his courtroom to settle the matter. Originally, Dodds was scheduled to hear the case in Ventura County.
On Wednesday, McGrath, who will still hear the death-penalty trial, ordered Ventura County sheriff’s officials to transfer Thornton to Santa Barbara County on April 22 for the hearing.
Thornton is accused of kidnaping and fatally shooting Westlake nurse Kellie O’Sullivan, the mother of a young boy, on Sept. 19.