BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The defense counsel for Trezell and Jacqueline West, the adoptive parents of Orrin and Orson West, held a press conference Monday to speak out on the charges their clients are facing. They accused District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer of making biased statements they believe could taint a jury pool.
Tim Hennessy, lead counsel for Trezell West, took issue with the Kern County District Attorney Office's press conference. Hennessy called the press conference "disingenuous and could call for a change in venue in the future."
“Statements that have been used by the Kern County District Attorney in her press conference tend to invoke a tidal wave of emotion towards finding guilt, whether substantiated or not.”
Hennessy stated that statements made by Zimmer while discussing the case against Trezell and Jacqueline West could deny the adoptive parents a chance at fair trial.
Alekxia Torres Stallings, attorney for Jacqueline West, added that the statements made by Zimmer can be misleading or taken as fact before the case even starts.
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“When we hear stuff like, ‘We proved to the grand jury, they were convinced, they believed.’ That isn’t the standard in which they make their finding. To us, it was more to clarify that that isn't the standard. That isn’t to say that the grand jury aren’t humans and that they obviously can’t make up their own mind, it's just that that’s not the same standard in which we know the standard to be,” said Stallings.
The attorneys were also critical of the grand jury process.
“Grand jury process lacks a crucial and important role of our criminal justice system and that is the accused and their counsel being present during. There is no opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses and it is basically ran by the district attorney,” said Hennessy.
23ABC reached out to the district attorney's office for a response to these allegations but as of now, we have not received the statement.
The trial is expected to begin May 23rd, but during Monday’s conference, the defense attorneys stated they are exploring a change of venue.
“It is something that we may be able to do considering the large amount of coverage that this case has gotten,” said Stallings.
A gag order has been requested by the district attorney’s office on this case. The defense attorneys said they plan to join in on the gag order to ensure that their jury pool isn’t tainted.
Trezell and Jacqueline West pleaded not guilty in court Thursday after being arrested for two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of child cruelty, and a false report of an emergency.
The defense for Trezell and Jacqueline West is exploring the option of changing the venue for their upcoming jury trial. 23ABC took an in-depth look at what this means exactly and why the defense may be pursuing this legal option.
"While venue may not be one of the most exciting legal topics to discuss, its importance on litigation cannot be understated. Venue can influence a case throughout all stages of litigation in many ways and can have a significant impact on the value of a case," explains the National Law Review.
First, it's important to note that in a jury trial, the venue determines the jurors who may be selected that will ultimately decide a case.
Certain venues may have had less media coverage of the case, meaning more potential jurors are less likely to be biased.
Depending on the facts of the case, and the parties involved, there may be a great advantage or disadvantage in a case being filed in the "home base" of one of the parties involved.
Also, the venue can have an obvious effect on the convenience and costs associated with a trial.
According to the Judicial Council of California, "Reasons for changes of venue include pretrial publicity, bias, political atmosphere, and any other circumstance that the parties believe would prevent them from obtaining a fair trial in the county in which the case was originally filed."
Normally, two or three alternative sites are selected but it is dependent on how many courts indicate they can take the case.
Alternative sites are usually identified within two weeks.
Once alternative sites are determined, the presiding judge discusses the locations with the parties’ counsel and schedules a hearing.
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