SANDY HOOK —
The trial of a man accused of murder in the death of an Olive Hill resident whose bullet-riddled body was found in an Elliott County farm pond in 2011 has been moved.
Following a hearing on Monday, Elliott Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips granted a change-of-venue motion by Kyle Holbrook’s attorney, Brandon Music.
However, Phillips opted to move the proceeding, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 12, from Elliott County to Morgan County, rather than Lawrence County, as Music had requested.
Holbrook, 21, of Olive Hill, was indicted in April of last year in the shooting death of Dillon “Nemo” Bryant, 19. Music maintained there was no way for his client to receive a fair trial in Elliott County due to the notoriety of the case.
“This has been the most talked-about case in recent memory,” he said at Monday’s hearing. “I believe people have already formed a notion of guilt or innocence. We believe that Louisa is a fair place to hold this trial.”
However, Commonwealth's Attorney Brandon Ison opposed the move.
“I don't feel that there is any issue that can't be addressed during jury selection in this county,” he said. “It is not in interest of the commonwealth to not have a fair trial.”
Rowan County resident Mary Binion and Elliott County resident Cathy Justus, who had both signed affidavits supporting Music’s motion, were called as witnesses at the hearing.
Binion said she believed Holbrook could not receive a fair trial in either Elliott or Carter County because so many people had already formed opinions regarding his guilt or innocence.
Phillips interrupted questioning of Binion, saying that Carter was certainly an inappropriate venue for the trial.
“We don't need to waste time on that,” the judge said. “The victim and his family are from Carter County, Carter County Sheriff's Office handled the initial case, the Carter County newspaper has covered it. Obviously Carter County is not the appropriate venue for this trial.”
Phillips later asked Binion why her testimony was different from her signed affidavit.
“I assumed that the parts that didn't pertain to me didn't matter,” she said.
Justus testified as to public opinion in Elliott County.
“They are not shy about it at all — they believe (Holbrook) is guilty because it says so on the computer,” she said.
Music said potential jurors in surrounding counties would likely be influenced by what they’ve read about the case on online forums, such as Topix.
“I think that the court needs to take the viral affect into account,” Music said. “Public opinion in one county is no longer contained in one county, but the law does not take that into account. There are no ethical constraints on Topix like there are in journalism. And I hope that the court will take that into consideration.”
“Based on the witness testimony, I don't believe a change of venue is necessary,” he said.
“The affidavits are greatly contradictory to what was said here today,” Phillips said. “I believe that as far as Elliott County is concerned, there should be a change of venue. If you look at this logistically, there is no reason why Morgan County can't be used.”
Phillips schedued another pretrial conference for 2 p.m. July 14 at 2 p.m. in Elliott County.