Attorney Janet H. King has asked the Superior Court to appoint a University of Guam political science professor to assist her client, murder suspect Joseph A. Crisostomo, in analyzing the impact of media coverage of the case and thus the need to change the trial’s venue.
As this developed, the jury trial of Crisostomo will be moved to April 7, 2014, after Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho granted on Friday chief prosecutor Shelli Neal’s request to postpone the trial. The original trial schedule was Oct. 15, 2013. King did not object to the government’s motion.
In a motion filed Friday, King asked the court to grant the appointment of professor John Stoil, to conduct a poll on pretrial publicity.
To support the motion, King attached hundreds of pages of newspaper articles, including Crisostomo’s long history of criminal cases, blogs, photos and news articles from the Internet and You Tube. In total, she filed 175 exhibits to support the motion.
King said these articles and other media sources more fully show that the media coverage of the case “was pervasive and prejudicial.”
“The long and the short of it is, potential jurors in Saipan have been inundated and bombarded every step of the way in this case in the print, televised, and electronic media,” she said.
She said it is hard to imagine a potential juror who has not been tainted by the ongoing instant coverage of events of this case.
“Further, ongoing media interest in this case continues. This is not a case where media interest was intense at the beginning and then fell off over time. It has continued unabated,” she said.
Citing case law, King said the fundamental right to a fair trial by an impartial jury includes the right to a trial by jury from outside influences, such as prejudicial pre-trial publicity.
King said she has contacted Stoil, who has agreed to assist Crisostomo without cost by designing, disseminating, and analyzing a poll of prospective veniremen to assess the impact of media coverage on the list from which jurors may be selected.
Veniremen are people who are summoned to the courthouse so that they may be questioned and perhaps chosen as jurors in trials of civil or criminal cases.
Last Wednesday, Camacho denied King’s motion to change the trial venue.
In the government’s request to continue the trial, Neal disclosed that on Aug. 22 and 26, 2013, the government received documents and discs from the Federal Bureau of Investigation containing supporting documents and records retained in FBI files that are part of this case. Neal said the documents and records totaled over 400 pages of science and technical information.
Four days later, she said, these documents were supplemented by six discs of additional scientific and technical information relating to the lab analyses performed in this case.
Neal said that based on conversations with the FBI lab analysts who authored the reports in this case, four weeks is not enough time for the defense experts to review, consult and render an opinion that would then be turned over to the FBI lab analysts to review.
Neal said the FBI lab analysts will be traveling to Saipan from the mainland, most from Quantico, Virginia.
The chief prosecutor said continuing the trial to a date in 2014 would not prejudice Crisostomo as he is currently serving a 10-year prison term in another case and his projected release is Sept. 13, 2022.
FBI agents found the body of bartender Emerita Romero at the former La Fiesta Mall in San Roque on Feb. 7, 2012, two days after she was last seen boarding a car near her house in Garapan.
Crisostomo, 40, is facing charges of first degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault in the first degree, robbery, theft, assault and battery, and disturbing the peace.