Change of Venue in Klaas Slaying Trial Approved

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The trial of Polly Klaas' accused killer will be moved out of Sonoma County, a judge ruled Monday after prosecutors gave up their battle against a change of venue.

Nearly two years after Klaas was kidnaped Oct. 1, 1993, Sonoma County Dist. Atty. Mike Mullins withdrew his opposition to a change of venue motion filed by Barry Collins, defense attorney for Richard Allen Davis.

Citing the "extraordinary delay" in picking a jury, Mullins said it is time to "get this case back on track and focus on justice for Polly Klaas."

The defense had asked that the trial be moved based on the extraordinary media coverage given to the case. Prospective jurors, fed information by the media over the past two years, already had their minds made up about Davis, Collins said.

His argument was borne out over two months of jury selection that began July 11. Many prospective jurors recalled exact details about the case. Of those who had an opinion--the majority--all believed Davis was guilty.

"Many of the jurors have said he can't get a fair trial here," Collins said.

Davis, 41, a parolee, confessed to the abduction and slaying of the 12-year-old Petaluma girl. After a two-month search that gained worldwide attention, Davis led police to the girl's body in a wooded area off U.S. 101 near Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County.

Change of venue surveys by both the defense and prosecution revealed that virtually 100% of Sonoma County residents knew who Davis was. Name recognition dropped as low as 65% in other counties.

"The further away you get from Sonoma County, the less information people have. In other parts of the state there probably are people who don't know Davis is the man who confessed," Collins said.

The defense has surveyed Orange, Santa Cruz and Solano counties in its change of venue research while the prosecution has surveyed San Diego County. Sacramento County has also been mentioned.

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