- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A judge denied a motion Friday to move the trial for two former Albuquerque officers charged with second-degree murder in the on-duty shooting death of a homeless man, saying defense attorneys didn’t prove that heightened local media attention given to the case had fixed the opinions of potential jurors.

Attorneys for now-former Officer Dominique Perez and retired detective Keith Sandy filed a change-of-venue motion that sought to move the trial scheduled for August to Las Cruces, about 200 miles south of Albuquerque.

They said coverage by Albuquerque media outlets of the March 2014 shooting that killed 38-year-old James Boyd in the Sandia Mountain foothills was nearly unprecedented for the city, with more than 250 media reports published and broadcast, and would make it nearly impossible to seat an impartial jury. Perez’s attorney, Luis Robles, said the motion was intended to “seek a fair trial” for his client.

The coverage had “harshly criticized” Perez and Sandy, with headlines that read “Charges keep police accountable …” and “No wonder Albuquerque Police Dept. has difficulty in finding recruits,” defense attorneys said.

Meanwhile, special prosecutor Randi McGinn had argued the trial should remain in Albuquerque.

“We believe Albuquerque can be fair in judging this case and until there has been enough evidence to suggest otherwise, that’s how it should stay,” said Kevin Holmes, who also is a special prosecutor in the case. “This community has an interest in determining the outcome of this case.”

While Judge Alisa Hadfield denied the change-of-venue motion, she left open the possibility that defense attorneys could try again if potential jurors’ responses to a pre-trial questionnaire found seating an unbiased jury was unlikely.

Both Sandy and Perez have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and assault charges in the shooting death of Boyd, who authorities say suffered from mental illness. Boyd had been camping illegally on the east side of Albuquerque before he was shot at the end of an hourslong standoff.

Video of the shooting released amid a U.S. Justice Department investigation into a pattern of excessive force within the Albuquerque Police Department sparked extensive local protests, including one in which demonstrators shut down City Hall during a council meeting.

Defense attorneys contend that Boyd presented a danger and had threatened officers, leaving them no choice but to shoot as their training had taught them.

In the police video, Boyd - who had two knives - appeared to be turning away from officers in the moment before he was shot.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday (https://bit.ly/1JLMZV2) that prosecutors had filed a motion asking the judge to keep the victim’s and the officers’ backgrounds out of the trial. McGinn said in a motion that sealing motions related to Boyd’s criminal history and the background of the officers would allow an impartial jury to be seated and would keep the information out of the media.

Sam Bregman, Sandy’s attorney, said he opposed sealing the motions.

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