MISSOULA — The trial of a man charged with shooting a German exchange student in his garage in April will remain in Missoula, a state judge has ruled.
District Judge Ed McLean ruled Markus Kaarma failed to show that news reports about the death of 18-year-old Diren Dede were inflammatory or that they served to create a public backlash to the extent that Kaarma might not receive a fair trial.
McLean wrote “the publicity thus far in this case has been, by all accounts, factual in nature. While certain political figures may have used the case as an opportunity to curry favor with potential constituents, there are undoubtedly a number of others commenting in support of Kaarma.”
In contrast to a case cited in the motion, “there has been no public outcry, campaigns to remove judges, angry mobs marching on the courthouse, biased statements by county attorneys and other individuals involved in this case,” McLean wrote.
McLean’s ruling, issued on Aug. 21, said any potential jurors who could not set aside their personal opinions can be identified and challenged during jury questioning.
Kaarma has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in the death of Dede, who was in Kaarma’s garage during an apparent burglary attempt. His trial is set for December.
Kaarma’s motion argued that after his release on bond “the significant publicity that followed created community-wide prejudice against him, stirring up strong passions of anger, hatred, indignation, revulsion and upset in such a manner that jurors chosen from Missoula County cannot determine his guilt or innocence in a fair and unbiased manner.”
McLean noted the Supreme Court has ruled that jurors don’t have to be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved in a case, but have to be able to set aside their opinions.
The motion also argued that Kaarma had been harassed and “is basically being held captive in his own home,” and that potential jurors might not give honest answers about being able to set aside information learned before the trial and decide the case based on evidence.