'Gang-related' pictures allowed as evidence in Dominic Johnson murder trial
The trial of the second suspect in 16-year-old David Grunwald’s murder is expected to started next week in Palmer.
But Dominic Johnson’s defense attorney is still pushing for a change of venue.
At a status hearing on Thursday, Lyle Stohler said the publicity surrounding co-defendant Erick Almandinger’s trial earlier this year makes it difficult to find an impartial jury. Stohler and Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak discussed potential jurors that will be dismissed before selection begins.
Questionnaires went out to 250 people in four panels so attorneys could weed out those who had already formed opinions about the defendant. Both attorneys agreed to dismiss about 55 people based on their responses. Many said they believed Johnson was guilty.
Stohler said he would like the trial to be held in a place where people aren’t as familiar with the case.
“Where? Seattle?” Kalytiak asked.
“Where in Alaska will we go?” Judge Gregory Heath asked. “That’s for another day,”
“I would say Juneau or Fairbanks,” Stohler responded.
When the trial begins, prosecutors will be able to use pictures that show Johnson in “gang-related” activity and tell jurors Johnson and his co-defendants were living in drug houses the summer before Grunwald was killed.
Judge Heath denied, in part, the defense’s motion to prohibit state prosecutors from using photos that show Johnson and his friends flashing a “C,” symbolizing the Crips gang.
In his ruling Heath wrote, “Providing evidence that Defendant was associated with this group of co-defendants, who were fascinated with the Crips and subscribed to their idea of Crip philosophy and lifestyle, provides motives for David Grunwald’s murder.”
There are several pictures he will not allow the jury to see because the photos could be prejudicial.
One photo has to have the words “Ma niggah” redacted; another picture of Erick Almandinger using drugs is “too prejudicial against Defendant and may confuse the jury (since Defendant is not being charged for drug use),” the judge wrote.
Individual questioning for jury selection begins Monday, Oct. 29.
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