McDaniel lawyers seek venue change

Telegraph staffJanuary 14, 2014 


Stephen McDaniel talks with his attorney Franklin Hogue in the Bibb County Courthouse in Macon.


Lawyers for accused killer Stephen McDaniel don’t want a Bibb County jury deciding his fate.

Citing “extensive media coverage,” the attorneys on Tuesday filed a motion for a change of venue.

McDaniel, 28, is charged with murder in the June 2011 dismemberment slaying of Lauren Giddings, his next-door neighbor and Mercer University law school classmate.

The case had been set for trial Feb. 3.

But last week a judge said alleged evidence that had recently been discovered left him no choice but to postpone the trial to allow McDaniel’s attorneys time to prepare his defense.

A new date has not been scheduled, and it wasn’t known late Tuesday whether a venue change, if granted, would affect the trial’s start.

“To require the defendant to be tried in Bibb County in this particular media atmosphere would violate his constitutional rights to a fair trial by an impartial jury,” defense lawyers Floyd Buford and Franklin J. Hogue wrote in their motion.

In the days after her dismembered torso turned up in a trash bin outside her Georgia Avenue apartment, details of Giddings’ slaying generated national news coverage.

The 27-year-old Maryland native had graduated from law school a month earlier and was still in Macon studying for the Georgia bar exam. She was last seen alive June 25, 2011. Her torso was found five days later after her friends and family learned she was missing.

Giddings’ death has been covered extensively in the midstate media for more than two and a half years.

Buford, one of McDaniel’s lawyers, on Tuesday night declined to say why the venue-change motion was filed now.

“The motion basically speaks for itself, and I assume that Judge (Howard) Simms will review it and schedule a hearing on it when he deems it appropriate,” Buford said.

Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke said he was aware of the venue-change motion but declined to comment except for saying, “We just want a fair trial.”

In court last week at a pretrial motions hearing, prosecutors revealed tidbits of information investigators have allegedly found on one of McDaniel’s personal computers.

The revelations, including claims that McDaniel viewed sites related to cannibalism and dismemberment, led local newscasts and garnered front-page headlines.

The Telegraph on Saturday, citing a source familiar with the investigation, reported that McDaniel had visited websites about violent sex acts and intercourse with the dead.

According to the source, McDaniel had viewed Giddings’ Facebook page and appeared to have researched a device similar to the burglar bar that Giddings used to secure her apartment door.

If a venue change is granted, it is possible McDaniel’s case will still be tried in Macon but with a panel of out-of-town jurors.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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