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Wesson defense asks for delay

The Fresno Bee, USA
Aug. 10, 2004
Jim Davis • Tuesday August 10, 2004

Hearing scheduled on moving murder trial.

A defense attorney representing accused mass murderer Marcus Wesson on Monday requested a delay in trial until mid-December and asked to move the trial to another county.

Public defender Peter Jones declined to say whether his client agreed with the motions; Wesson has resisted earlier efforts to delay the trial.

“I don’t really want to comment on the attorney-client relationship,” Jones said. “We’ll make our motion, and the court will rule on it.”

Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Bob Ellis said his office opposes moving the trial to another county. He said the reasoning would be explained in a later motion. “Obviously, I can’t comment any more than that other than we believe a motion in opposition is appropriate,” Ellis said.

A hearing on the case is expected to be held Wednesday, and a decision on delaying the trial is expected that day.

Ellis said a hearing on the change of venue is scheduled for Aug. 20.

Wesson is accused of killing nine of his children in the worst mass murder in Fresno’s history.

He was arrested March 12 outside of his central Fresno home after a standoff with police.

Officers found the bodies stacked in a pile in a back bedroom. The victims ranged in age from 1 to 25.

Wesson also faces 14 counts of sexual abuse, including rape.

The case has moved briskly through the court process and is set for trial Sept. 14 in Judge R.L. Putnam’s courtroom.

Monday was a deadline set by Putnam for motions to be filed in the case.

A Public Defender’s Office employee wheeled a dolly with a box of documents through the court filing office just before the office closed at 3 p.m.

In his motions, Jones wrote there is a “reasonable likelihood that an impartial trial” cannot be had in Fresno County.

The motion notes seven of the victims were young children and have been represented as Wesson’s children of “incestuous and polygamous relationships” with his daughters and nieces.

The media coverage has been “extensive and pervasive” and could affect jurors during the trial, according to the motion.

A public survey also was conducted that showed 83% of those polled recognized Wesson by name without being prompted.

More than 48% had formed an opinion of whether Wesson was guilty of murder, and nearly 53% had formed an opinion of whether he was guilty of the sex crimes.

“The animosity against anyone portrayed as a murderer of nine people, including eight children, and of decades-long sexual abuse and assault would understandably be considerable,” Jones wrote. “This is particularly of concern where the defendant is viewed as the head of a bizarre cult.”

Read The Fresno Bee online

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