- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - The case of a former Columbus Police officer accused in an October 2015 shooting death of a man will be moved out of Lowndes County.

Canyon Boykin, who is white, said he fired his weapon while chasing after 26-year-old Ricky Ball because the African-American man appeared to point a gun at him.

Boykin, 26, was charged with manslaughter. His attorneys, Jim Waide and Jeff Reynolds, have said Boykin shot Ball in self-defense.

Circuit Judge Lee Coleman granted a change of venue motion filed by Boykin’s attorneys after a Friday hearing.

Reynolds said the media and social media coverage of Boykin’s case has been “pervasive” since the shooting. He referenced speculation that Boykin murdered Ball intentionally, or that police planted a reportedly stolen 9mm pistol on Ball’s body.

Reynolds also referenced threats to Boykin, saying he’s been followed in public and a Facebook post that says he “deserves a bullet to the face.”

The state called Rev. Steven James and Lowndes County NAACP president LaVonne Harris to testify. Both witnesses acknowledged that the shooting has sparked widespread community interest. However, they also said they don’t believe the court could not assemble an impartial jury.

“You’re going to have negative press coverage in any case where someone loses their life,” said Patrick Beasely, of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case. “You’re going to have negative statements on both sides. You’re going to have people in the community who are going to jump to conclusions — that are going to make up their minds. You’re going to have that.

“The issue becomes has that so permeated this community that we cannot sit 12 impartial jurors in Lowndes County?”

Beasely also questioned how much of a role social media should have in determining if a change of venue hearing is necessary.

“If that’s the standard, we’ll never have a trial anywhere, because social media is uncontrollable and it’s worldwide,” he said.

The Commercial Dispatch (https://bit.ly/2frQWjT ) reports Coleman said he felt it best to move the trial because of heavy media coverage and other reasons.

“Considering the totally of the circumstances, the court feels that the interests of justice and inspiring confidence in the decision of whatever jury ultimately decides this case would make would best be served by having 12 jurors who know absolutely nothing about this case whatsoever,” Coleman said.

Coleman further said he believes that crimes committed by a public official or employee bear serious consideration, as do those committed by a white defendant against a black victim.

Coleman asked both sides to submit three counties for him to consider moving the case to. He said he will consider those options at a hearing at a later date.

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This story has been corrected to recast lede to insert dropped words and fix reference to Boykin in 3rd paragraph.

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, https://www.cdispatch.com

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