Bibb committee approves $500,000 to move trial, likely McDaniel case

jgaines@macon.comMarch 11, 2014 

McDaneil_Hearing

Stephen McDaniel Friday arrives for his hearing Friday.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

Though it hasn’t been announced where accused dismemberment killer Stephen McDaniel will stand trial, indications are that it won’t be in Bibb County.

In a development that more than hints that the high-profile murder case will be heard elsewhere, the Macon-Bibb County Commission’s Operations & Finance Committee unanimously approved $500,000 Tuesday to pay for “special litigation” in an unnamed case.

They didn’t identify the case, but Julie Moore, assistant to the county manager, said the trial is expected to take place in April.

McDaniel, 28, is scheduled to go on trial April 28 in the June 2011 slaying of 27-year-old Lauren Giddings, his Mercer University law school classmate and next-door neighbor.

A final vote on the measure by the full commission probably will be March 18.

Earlier this year, McDaniel’s lawyers requested a change of venue, citing pretrial publicity.

Bibb Superior Court Judge Howard Simms, the presiding judge in the case, has yet to issue a ruling on moving the trial.

Officials in Henry County recently said Bibb County had expressed interest in having the trial there, in McDonough.

The money for the venue change is needed soon because preparatory work for the trial needs to start.

Although the exact cost of the trial is unclear, it won’t cost anywhere near $500,000, Simms said.

A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday to help nail down what the cost is likely to be.

Typically, an account is set up for out-of-town trial expenses -- hotel costs, security, use of the host courthouse, housing the defendant and other items -- and the account is billed for those costs.

No money has been spent, and an order hasn’t been filed officially granting the venue change or naming the trial’s location.

Mayor Robert Reichert said he was told that if the trial remained in Bibb County, it could require calling 500 jurors to get a jury untainted by prior publicity.

The cost of moving the trial elsewhere and seeking a jury there likely would be cheaper than having the trial in Bibb County, Reichert said.

Telegraph writers Amy Leigh Womack and Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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