Three ex-HPD officers accused in Chad Holley beating case ask for change of venue

July 13, 2012 4:27:56 PM PDT
Three former Houston police officers, awaiting trial in connection with the beating of teenage burglary suspect Chad Holley, want to get out of town. Though their former colleague was recently acquitted, attorneys for the three argued Friday that their clients can't receive a fair trial in Harris County.

The video of Holley's rough arrest was and will be the main piece of evidence in these cases. But the fact audiences have already seen it is the main reason the former officers say jurors here can't be fair.

Former HPD Officer Phil Bryan wouldn't answer the question when we asked why he thought he couldn't get a fair trial in Houston. But his lawyer was eager to. Minutes after telling the judge he didn't think he could find six fair people in Harris County, he told us...

"There is tremendous amount of community outrage among some segments of the community," said Aaron Suder, Bryan's attorney. "I think the fear is that it's going to be worse the second time around trying to seat a jury," said Aaron Suder, Bryan's attorney.

He's talking about the reaction after the not-guilty verdict in Andrew Blomberg's trial. Blomberg walked after a jury decided he didn't break the law in the 2010 arrest of Holley.

According to motions filed with the court, lawyers for the former officers call those reactions "an atmosphere of intimidation" and going so far as to suggest some jurors "might purposefully conceal" their bias to get picked for the jury.

Joe Owmby, attorney for former Officer Raad Hassan, said, "There were comments by elected officials disagreeing with the jury's verdict. There were comments by authorities in question. I don't want to quote any of those comments, but those are some of the things that we're concerned about."

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said at the time of the Blomberg trial, "I certainly don't agree with the verdict."

"Former Officer Blomberg acted inappropriately, against policy, training and in violation of state law," HPD Chief Charles McClelland said during the trial.

Both still say the officers can be tried here fairly. The district attorney's office agrees and so do activists who were in court Friday morning.

"If a policeman can't get a fair trial in Harris County, then nobody can," said community activist Ali Muhammad. "They ought to let all these people go free, and just everybody go free and go home."

Attorneys for the former officers would like the trial moved outside of the Houston TV coverage area. But the options are all much smaller than Harris County and largely less diverse.

The judge has not yet ruled on the change of venue motion.

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