Klaas Slaying Case Moved to San Jose : Courts: Sonoma County judge’s decision comes over defense objections that holding Richard Allen Davis’ trial in the Bay Area would make it difficult to find an impartial jury. Trial begins in February.
The trial of Polly Klaas’ accused killer will be moved to San Jose, a Sonoma County judge ruled Monday over defense objections that keeping the trial in the San Francisco Bay Area will make it difficult to find an impartial jury.
Superior Court Judge Lawrence Antolini chose Santa Clara County, the first choice of prosecutors, over Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego. Antolini granted a change of venue for defendant Richard Allen Davis, 41, on Sept. 18 after it became clear that residents here were too emotional about the slaying of the 12-year-old Petaluma girl to give Davis a fair trial.
Defense attorney Barry Collins had asked that the trial be moved to San Diego on the premise that the farther away from Sonoma County, the better the chance of finding impartial jurors. Statistics collected during a change of venue survey indicated San Diego residents knew less about the case than other counties and were less set in their opinions. Northern California venues were exposed to more publicity, the defense argued.
After six days of wrangling over the significance of the survey, Antolini accepted prosecutor Greg Jacobs’ arguments that the Klaas murder case is so notorious it will be high profile wherever it goes. Therefore, Jacobs argued, why not send it to the closest county to minimize cost and hardship for the 175 witnesses who may be called?
“The publicity in the case has permeated every nook and cranny of California,” Antolini said.
A parolee with a lengthy criminal record, Davis is charged with the Oct. 1, 1993, kidnaping and murder of Polly Klaas. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
After the judge’s ruling, defense attorney Collins said he would “wait and see how things are going” in picking a jury in Santa Clara County before deciding whether to file another change of venue motion. That option is legally open to him.
Antolini set the first trial date in San Jose for Feb. 5. A judge will be assigned to the case that day. The prosecution anticipates it will take at least until April to seat a jury and testimony could begin in May. A verdict isn’t expected until after the crime reaches its third anniversary. The Davis trial is expected to cost at least $1.5 million.
Davis is expected to be moved to San Jose over the next few weeks.
Marc Klaas, Polly’s father, said he was pleased the judge had moved the case to San Jose. “It’s going to make things easier for everybody involved in the case except the killer. All the burdens have been lifted by keeping it in the Bay Area,” Klaas said.
Klaas attended the hearing with his parents, all wearing button pictures of his daughter, which said: “Polly, we love you.”