A 20-year-old Glendive man charged with deliberate homicide could not receive a fair trial if the case was heard in Dawson County, a District Court judge has ruled.
In a court order filed Friday, Judge Joe Hegel moved the homicide trial of Lance Deines from Glendive to Miles City because of conflicts caused by the large number of defendants and witnesses who have relationships with potential jurors in Dawson County.
Hegel also postponed the start of the trial from Sept. 24 to April 8, 2002, at the request of Deines defense attorney.
Deines is accused of shooting 17-year-old Steve Berry to death on Dec. 30, 2000, at a cluster of small shacks outside Glendive. Berry was shot six times in the head, and his body was burned twice. His remains were found in a ravine on Jan. 13, about two weeks after his family reported him missing.
Prosecutors say Berry was killed in retribution for stealing a safe containing cocaine, cash and collectible baseball cards from Deines.
Deines defense attorney, Phyllis Quatman of Whitefish, had asked the judge to move the trial to Missoula. Deputy County Attorney Scott Herring said prosecutors did not argue against moving the trial from Glendive, but wanted the case to be heard closer to Dawson County.
Quatman also argued that coverage of the case by Billings media tainted potential jurors. Hegel disagreed, saying there was not enough evidence that pretrial publicity had hurt the chances of finding impartial jurors in Eastern Montana.
In agreeing to postpone the trial, Hegel noted that evidence in the case includes 2,400 pages of documents, 1,000 photographs, 40 audio tapes and DNA samples.
Deines also has been charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping and three counts of tampering with evidence. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if Deines is convicted. He is being held without bond in the Dawson County jail pending trial.
Four others have also been charged in the case, including a 17-year-old charged as an adult for allegedly helping Deines abduct and kill Berry. Chad Downs has pleaded not guilty to charges of deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Downs. A date for his trial has not been set.
Cody Babb, 17, has been charged with deliberate homicide by accountability, aggravated kidnapping and criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. Hes accused of taking part in a drug deal with Berry, then telling Deines and Downs where to find Berry. Babbs trial is set for Jan. 7.
Craig McDanold and Josh Reynolds, both in their early 20s, are charged with aggravated kidnapping, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and two counts of assault with a weapon.
McDanold and Reynolds are accused of helping abduct Berry a month before he was killed when Deines discovered the drugs and money were missing. Berry was beaten and threatened with a gun before he was released when he promised to return the stolen property.
McDanold and Reynolds also are accused of hiding evidence after Berrys death, and suggesting that diesel fuel be used to burn Berrys body, prosecutors say. Reynolds trial is scheduled for Nov. 7, and McDanolds case is set for trial on Dec. 10.Greg Tuttle can be reached at 657-1320 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.