District Judge William Ela refused this morning to strike 503 prosecution affidavits claiming that Kenneth H. Botham Jr. can get a fair trial in Mesa County.
But the judge noted that the affidavits from both the district attorney and the public defender’s offices are “replete with hearsay.” He said he will take that into consideration in making a decision whether Botham’s trial on four counts of first degree murder should be transferred to another county. In addition to many affidavits for both sides, a number of witnesses are testifying.
A decision could come later today from the bench, or might be delayed and issued in writing later. Judge Ela declined to comment this noon which would happen.
The change of venue hearing opened slowly this morning, with four witnesses called by the public defender’s office, representing Botham.
Among witnesses were:
- Glenn C. Dawes, 1784 Road K, who said he had been in the Fruita State Bank when a woman sheriff’s deputy was seeking affidavits for the prosecution. Those affidavits are based on the contention that Botham can get a fair trial in Mesa County. Dawes testified that he had been told that it would cost $100,000 to transfer the Botham case to another jurisdiction, and it was this testimony on which the public defender’s office relied to strike the prosecution affidavits. Dawes also testified he has “talked to a dozen people,” that “feeling was strong against the defendant” and they used “foul language” in referring to Botham.
- Larry Millhouse, formerly a newsman with radio stations KQIL and KQIX, who testified on stories carried by that station. He is currently with radio station KEXO as an ad salesman and testified also on those stories. Millhouse said he had discussed the case with “about a dozen” people, who had, for the most part concluded the defendant was guilty. He also said that people can go back and re-read newspaper stories, and that he felt people draw conclusions from those and electronic media stories.
- Thomas Thoky, circulation director for the Daily Sentinel, who testified to the newspaper’s coverage of Mesa and adjoining counties.
- W. H. Hams, editorial page editor for the Daily Sentinel, who said he feels the murder stories have had a broad following because they “intrigued people.” He said he is deeply concerned that the courts could dispense justice. He also added it would be “difficult” to find a jury because there is strong conviction in the community of the defendant’s guilt.
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