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Judge asked to move case out of town

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By David Giuliani

A defense attorney wants to move the case involving the killing of a 6-year-old girl out of town because of emotional media coverage.

Last September, David Levi Chavez, 21, was charged with an open count of murder in connection with the death of Jasmine Garcia, who had just graduated from kindergarten.

Garcia was sleeping in her mother’s bed at 304 Union St. late on June 15, when a shot ripped through an outside wall facing the street, killing her. Authorities say that Chavez was aiming for Garcia’s uncle when he fired at the house.

The case has been bound over to state District Court for trial, which is set for April, according to court documents.

Bob Gorence, Chavez’s attorney, has asked District Judge Abigail Aragon to move the trial to Santa Fe or Albuquerque because of what he called extensive coverage in the media of Garcia’s death. In court documents. Gorence cited reports in the Las Vegas Optic and the Albuquerque Journal and broadcasts on two Albuquerque TV stations as being responsible for the likely tainting of prospective jurors.

He noted that Optic stories included a photo of Garcia with her graduation cap and gown and that one story contained “unverified, factual assertions” by Garcia’s grandmother.

The grandmother told the Optic that her mother informed her she heard gunfire during the night of the killing but initially found nothing. Later, they checked on Garcia and found her dead, the grandmother said.

Gorence also pointed to “emotional assertions” by Police Chief Gary Gold in the Journal.

“If you could have seen the girl the way we did, you would know that we’re going to do everything in our power to catch the person who did this,” Gold told the Journal. “It was one of the saddest things in your life to see a child like that … It really hits home.”

In the documents, Gorence also noted that the Optic included Chavez’s address in a story and reported that Chavez had been charged with aggravated assault and possession of drug paraphernalia a little more than a month before Garcia’s death. Prosecutors dismissed the assault charge, while Chavez pleaded guilty to having drug paraphernalia.

Gorence argued that a jury couldn’t put aside “preconceived motions” that they have about his client or the victim’s family, adding that the jurors would be “corrupted” by news reports.

Tom Clayton of the district attorney’s office opposed the request to move the trial to another jurisdiction.

“Nowhere within (Gorence’s) motion does he provide facts supporting a bias against his client other than speculation,” Clayton wrote in court documents.

He suggested giving a supplemental questionnaire to jurors specific to the news coverage about the case.

Judge Aragon said she would reserve judgment on the defense’s request until she saw the responses to the questionnaires, according to a court transcript.