Trial for accused Zodiac shooter to be held in Bibb

awomack@macon.comJanuary 13, 2014 

The trial for a man charged with the 2013 shooting death of a teenager outside downtown Macon’s Zodiac Lounge will be held in Bibb County, despite a request from his lawyer that it be moved.

Andre Bonner, 31, is charged with murder and gang and gun charges in the July 5 death of Jamonni Bland. Then 21-year-old Deion Davis was shot eight times during the incident. He survived.

Bonner, the man who authorities allege shot Bland, is one of eight people charged in the case. Another man, 28-year-old John Michael Hollingshed Jr., is accused of shooting Davis.

In a Monday hearing in Bibb County Superior Court, Bonner’s lawyer said media coverage of the episode has been “prejudicial,” “sensationalized” and “inflammatory.”

“It is our position given the pretrial publicity in this case there is no way Mr. Bonner can have a fair trial,” Melvin Raines told the judge.

In a Dec. 16 motion, Raines also argued that if Bonner is tried in Bibb County, it would be in a place “where community feeling is strongly set against him,” violating his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

During Monday’s hearing, Raines said early news reports that Bland was not inside the club have been disputed by patrons who were in the club.

Authorities have said Bland was shot outside the club, located at the RiverView Event Center near Walnut Street and Broadway.

Prosecutor Sandra Matson argued against moving the trial, saying media coverage hasn’t been extensive, and Raines hasn’t proven any inaccuracies.

Moving the trial for Bonner would also mean moving the trial for the seven others charged in the case, which would be challenging, she said.

“They’ve not been very good prisoners at the jail. They’ve been very difficult,” Matson said.

An indictment, filed in November, also accused Bonner of striking a Bibb County deputy in the chest with his hand on Aug. 26, more than a month after his arrest.

Hollingshed, who also is charged with murder and gang and gun charges, is accused of threatening to kill a Bibb deputy on Sept. 17, nearly two months after his arrest, according to an indictment.

Judge Howard Simms denied Raines’ motion, saying the decision to move a trial isn’t one that judges make lightly because it takes the community out of the judicial process.

“Nowhere is he going to find a better sampling of his peers than right here,” the judge said.

Raines has filed a speedy trial demand in the case, meaning that the trial must be held before the end of the court’s June trial term.

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