The attorney for Elisa Baker wants a venue change for his client’s court proceedings. He said a change of locations is the only way that the woman accused of second-degree murder in her stepdaughter’s death can receive a fair trial.
"There exists in the county so great a prejudice against the defendant that she cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial,” according to the motion filed by Baker's attorney Scott Reilly.
Elisa is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her stepdaughter, Zahra Baker. After Elisa and her husband, Adam Baker, reported Zahra missing in October, Elisa was arrested for obstruction of justice after she admitted to writing a fake ransom note. After Zahra’s dismembered body was found, Elisa was charged with second-degree murder, in addition to a host of misdemeanors.
Now, Reilly says that press coverage, Internet publicity and public access to official documents created an “extreme” prejudice that would not grant Elisa her constitutional right to a fair trial.
He said that news and editorial articles published by local newspapers reveal “a deep prejudice” against Elisa and a “firm conviction of her guilt.” He also cites that television and radio stations have also broadcast hundreds of reports on the case.
“The pretrial publicity in this case has been such that the entire county is ‘infected’ with prejudice,” according to the motion. “This is sufficient to show that a fair trial cannot be obtained in Catawba County and the surrounding media area.”
That prejudice, Reilly said, is a general sentiment that Elisa is guilty — something he said Catawba County citizens and potential jurors wouldn’t be able to stay away from.
The motion asks the court to:
Transfer the venue in this case from Catawba County to a demographically similar county.
Allow this motion to be accepted as an affirmation in this case in support of the motion.
In the alternative, allow an evidentiary hearing in this matter and grant funds to Elisa so that a “venue survey” may be conducted.
Elisa is set to appear in court Thursday for a pre-trial hearing.