Publicity pushes trial to new venue

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

The trial of three men charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 10-year-old Clovis boy will be moved out of Curry County because of pre-trial publicity, according to court documents made available Wednesday.

Ninth Judicial District Judge Joe Parker ruled in favor of a defense motion for change of venue Friday during a pre-trial hearing for defendants Demetrio Salas, 21, Edward Salas, 22, and David Griego, 30.

The court is considering Lea County for the March trial, contingent on scheduling and availability. Parker said he wants confirmation by the first of February so the decision can be finalized.

The three are facing life in prison for the Sept. 15, 2005, death of Carlos Perez, who was killed by shots fired through his bedroom window while he slept in his bed.

Gary Mitchell, attorney for Demetrio Salas, told the court news coverage of the homicide has likely tainted potential Curry County jurors, citing numerous stories and editorial columns published in the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune.

Any case involving the death of a child presents inherent challenges for jurors, many of whom have a “horrific problem” getting around the emotions invoked by a child’s slaying, Mitchell said.

Newspaper articles detailing evidence, witness statements and coverage of the May sentencing of the Salases’ younger brother, Orlando Salas, will also prejudice jurors, he said.

Orlando Salas, 17, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced as a juvenile, eligible for release at age 21.

Parker also heard motions to have separate trials for the three defendants but did not render a decision, pending more detailed arguments.

Defense attorneys cited specific evidence and testimony prosecutors will introduce during a joint trial that could prejudice or confuse jurors regarding each of the co-defendants.