PCI inmate defendant seeks trial change of venue
By Jon Hawley
Sunday, December 9, 2018
A defendant in last year's deadly escape attempt from Pasquotank Correctional Institution is seeking a change of venue, claiming he cannot receive a fair trial in Pasquotank or neighboring counties.
Through his defense attorneys, Mikel Brady has asked to be tried in a county outside the coverage area of Pasquotank's TV and print media, including The Daily Advance. Brady is one of four defendants alleged to have murdered four correctional employees at PCI on Oct. 12, 2017. The others are Seth Frazier, Wisezah Buckman and Jonathan Monk, whose attorneys have not yet sought changes of venue, according to court staff.
District Attorney Andrew Womble said Friday that the change of venue was set to be heard next week, but one of the defense attorneys has a scheduling conflict. He said he hopes a judge will decide the matter next month, and that Brady could go to trial no later than fall 2019.
Brady's attorneys, Jackson Warmack Jr. and Thomas Manning, moved for a change of venue on Aug. 27. They explain Brady has a right to a fair and impartial trial, a right recognized by both the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions.
The attorneys also note the prison escape, and Brady's alleged role in it, have been extensively covered by The Daily Advance and nearby media in Virginia, including The Virginian Pilot and TV stations WTKR, WAVY and WVEC. That coverage has circulated “facts, non-facts and hearsay” that will “severely prejudice a prospective jury pool” in Pasquotank and surrounding counties, they argue.
The attorneys further call for Brady's trial to be held outside of the 1st Judicial District altogether.
Womble said he is reserving “definitive statements” on the attorneys' request until he sees what information supports it. However, he said Pasquotank is the “logical nexus” for holding the trial. If the trial must be moved, he said it should be held as close to Pasquotank or the 1st Judicial District as possible, in order to ease the travel burden for victims' families.