Roanoke attorney David Damico came to Floyd today determined to win a change of venue in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Garland "Buckey" Nester, saying this web site "poisoned" the jury pool because of our "inflammatory" reporting of the charges that grew out of the tragic death of neighbor Paul Belcher when the former county animal control officer shot his 357 semi-automatic pistol at a stubborn cow and one of the bullets went astray.
He didn’t get his change of venue. Circuit Judge Ray W. Grubbs decided to go through the jury selection process before ruling on Damico’s motion. Of the 27 potential jurors interviewed, only two said they ever read Blue Ridge Muse and one of those said she didn’t remember reading anything about the case on our web site. One other potential juror said he knew about Muse but didn’t read us because we’re "just a gossip site." Kinda hard to poison anything when only 3 out of 27 even know we exist. Grubbs denied the motion.
Damico, who filed an earlier motion requesting a change of venue based on print and broadcast coverage of the case, said he only became aware of the coverage on Muse when he did a Google search the weekend before the trial.
His arguments, filled with usual lawyer hyperbole, tried to make us appear reckless but he was reckless in failing to mention that, on Nov. 6, 2008, I cautioned readers to avoid misinformation, saying: "let’s not pass on unfounded rumors and speculation." He also failed to mention that, at a Nester family member’s request, I cut back on the pre-trial coverage and modified some earlier stories.
Our policy is to always correct any errors when we discover them. Testimony today revealed we did make a mistake about the gun used in the shooting. That mistake was based on information passed on by a source we will not trust in the future. It has been corrected and we apologize to Buckey Nester and our readers.
Nester’s jury trial was scheduled to last one day but at 5:10 p.m. today, with Special Prosecutor Cliff Hapgood still presenting his case, Grubbs recessed the court until 9 a.m. Wednesday.