Both motions were related to television interviews conducted by
defense attorney Dan Fultz. Wright said Fultz had appeared in
interviews April 3 and 4 on channels that serve the entire Peoria
Wright along with fellow prosecutors Michael
Atterberry and Steve Nate, both assistant attorneys general,
believed that the information given out in the interviews was more
than needed to be said and could influence the court's ability to
find unbiased jurors in Peoria County.
The first motion was for an order restraining counsel from making
statements to the media.
In the courtroom, defense attorneys Fultz and Peter Naylor chose
not to argue the merits of the motion, and Drazewski granted it as
written. There were no actions taken against Fultz for what has
already been said, but the order did include provisions for
disciplinary action if any attorney crosses the line in the future.
The second emergency motion then called for a change of venue or
a postponement of the trial. Again Wright stated the case for the
motion, using claims that the media coverage could taint the jury
He told Drazewski this was the same situation for which Fultz and
Naylor had pleaded in January that the trial be moved out of Logan
County. Wright said the decision to take the trial out of Logan
County was one that he would respect. He would not ask the judge to
bring it back to Logan, but he did feel it should now be moved away
Wright told the judge that an interview conducted in Fultz's
office had aired on two channels in the Peoria County area. In the
interviews Fultz discussed items that had not previously been made a
matter of public record.
Just as Fultz and Naylor had in January cited that Internet
capabilities kept local news stories in retrievable archives, Wright
said that these channels also had archives on their station
websites. He said that in years past, a five-minute interview would
have been there and gone, but today it is available online and can
be viewed as often and by as many people as the newspaper articles.
Among the issues Fultz discussed with the media was whether or
not Christopher Harris allegedly told the police soon after his
arrest that he killed Dillon Constant in self-defense, and that it
was Constant who committed the other murders of several members of
his own family. Wright said the interviews after Harris' arrest were
not public record and shouldn't have been brought out on television.
Also in the interview, Fultz stated his case for having the jury
visit the Gee home, even though the decision to do so or not had not
yet been made.
Wright said now prospective jurors would be coming into the
interview process with the preconceived notion that they would be
touring the home.
Wright also said that while the first motion to restrain the
defense from speaking to the media was needed, it was also a matter
of "unringing the bell." The statements have already been made and
they can't be taken back.
Wright said, therefore, the prosecution believes that holding the
trial in Peoria County will no longer provide a fair and impartial
jury pool. He said that while the defense argued in January that
they needed a fair and unbiased trial for their defendant, the
prosecution was now arguing that they, too, need a fair and unbiased
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He also asked Drazewski to consider, if not changing the venue,
then postponing the trial so as to allow time to "lessen the sting"
of what Fultz had said.
In the effort to maintain the defendant's right to a fair and
speedy trial, Drazewski asked just how much time Wright thought that
Wright said he would ask for a delay to August or September for
the start of the trial.
When Fultz stood to defend keeping the trial in Peoria on the
original dates established, he began by telling the judge there were
two paths he could now take. He said he would choose the second path
and not go into an argument on what was said and not said to the
Fultz told Drazewski that what had happened was wrong. He
apologized to the court and said he regretted his actions. He told
the judge: "There are some days when you feel you can't do anything
right, and this is one of those days for me."
He continued by telling Drazewski that his interview took up five
minutes of air time on two stations. He said compared with the
thousands of news stories that had been published in the last three
years, this was minimal. He countered Wright's arguments by saying
that in January it was prosecuting attorney Nate who argued that
those thousands of news releases would have no influence on a local
jury panel, yet Wright believes that a five-minute interview will
taint the entire jury pool of Peoria County.
Fultz went on to say that perhaps the real motive of the motion
for the state was not a change of venue but rather a delay. He said
perhaps they need more time to be prepared for the trial and are
using this instance as an excuse for getting it.
Wright, in rebuttal, told Drazewski that nothing could be further
from the truth. He said the state has spent countless hours
preparing for this trial. He told the judge that Fultz's statements
were irresponsible and disingenuous. He also corrected Fultz's
statement that there had been thousands of news articles about the
case. He said there had been hundreds, though. He added that giving
one interview of five full minutes in a 30-minute news show was
significant coverage, and it would be a mistake to believe that it
wasn't seen by a large number of people.
Wright concluded by telling the judge that the people want to
bring this case to an end. There needs to be a final conclusion for
Christopher Harris, as well as the Gee family.
When Drazewski made his ruling on the motion, he said that no one
could really know what people have seen and heard, nor can they
control it fully. He said the real question is, can prospective
jurors lay aside their preconceived notions and bring forth a fair
The judge then noted a similar situation in Bloomington in 2010,
when the appellate court said that mere exposure to the case is not
enough to warrant a change of venue. Drazewski said the court ruled
that jurors need not be ignorant of the case; they just need to be
able to lay aside their opinions.
Drazewski said he understood that having this happen less than a
month from the date of jury selection was unfortunate, but he did
not believe it warranted a change of venue, nor did it warrant a
postponement of the trial.