MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The murder trial of an Alabama police officer should be held in the city where the shooting occurred, prosecutors argued in a Tuesday court filing opposing defense efforts to move the high-profile trial elsewhere.
The district attorney's office opposed a defense request to move Officer Aaron Smith's trial out of Montgomery. Prosecutors said Smith had not proven that news media coverage of the case warranted moving the trial.
"The defendant has not produced any reports, articles or other media that shows bias toward the defendant or amounts to 'false news'. When media coverage is factual in nature, any presumption of prejudice is undermined," prosecutors with the district attorney's office wrote.
In a change-of-venue motion filed in December, defense lawyer Mickey McDermott wrote that "to ensure that Mr. Smith receives a fair trial from an impartial jury of his peers, it is imperative that this matter be transferred to another county whereas it is obvious that the Montgomery County community has been infested with racial prejudice and hatred toward Mr. Smith that cannot be cured in any manner."
Smith faces a murder charge for the 2016 shooting death of 58-year-old Greg Gunn. The fatal confrontation began when the officer stopped Gunn as Gunn was walking through his neighborhood shortly after 3 a.m.
Friends said Gunn was walking home from his weekly card game to the house he shared with his mother. McDermott has said Smith stopped Gunn because he thought he was acting suspiciously and that Gunn fought with the officer and swung something at him.
The shooting death roiled the city. Yellow lawns signs reading "Justice for Greg Gunn" lined the streets in the neighborhood where he was shot. Montgomery County is 57 percent black, according to the U.S. 2015 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A state investigator testified in a March hearing that Smith gave conflicting stories about what happened before he shot Gunn. The fatal confrontation was not captured on Smith's body camera or dash camera because Smith did not activate his body camera or turn on his patrol car lights.