Jimmy Spencer’s defense attorney asks for change of venue and jurors to be questioned individually

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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. — Jimmy O’Neal Spencer is charged with killing three people, including a child, after he was paroled from the Alabama Department of Corrections. He was scheduled to appear September 7, for hearing before his January trial.

Due to issues moving prisoners from state prisons with COVID-19 to jails with COVID-19, a judge ordered that the hearing be rescheduled. Spencer will be transported to the Marshall County Jail for the hearing.

Beyond concerns about the coronavirus, there are several motions before the court.

It’s been more than three years since Spencer was charged with the murders of Marie Martin, her 7-year-old grandson Colton Lee, and her neighbor Martha Reliford in Guntersville.

Spencer was on parole at the time of the crimes. Investigators later determined he left a halfway house in Birmingham where he was ordered to reside.

Spencer’s attorney, Robert Tuten, has filed several motions over the past few months ahead of the January 2022 trial.

An order from the judge shows many of those motions will be heard October 27, including one for a change of venue.

In a court filing, Tuten expressed concerns about newspaper coverage of the crime in several North Alabama counties as well as broadcast reports that aired as far away as Birmingham. He says news of the state’s settlement with the victims’ families, as well as the description of charges and Spencer’s background has ‘severely prejudiced prospective jurors’ against the defendant.

He argues that holding the trial in Marshall county, where the community is strongly set against Spencer, will violate his rights to a fair trial.

Tuten has also filed motions regarding the jury selection process. He is arguing to have a questionnaire mailed to prospective jurors with their summons.

Tuten is also asking for prospective jurors to be questioned individually instead of the more common group selection process. The defense says that will minimize the risk that an entire panel will be tainted by another prospective juror’s responses.

Last week, Tuten filed a motion to prevent family members of Spencer’s alleged victims from wearing “in memoriam” apparel at his trial saying it could inflame the passions of the jury and violate his client’s right to a fair trial.

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