Four prominent Lowndes County public figures have signed affidavits filed in Circuit Court requesting the relocation of Brian Holliman”s murder trial.
Holliman is charged with the shooting death of his wife, Laura Holliman, Oct. 25, 2008, at the couple”s Caledonia home.
Caledonia Mayor George Gerhart; District 17 Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus; District 39 Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Columbus, who also serves as Caledonia town attorney; and East Mississippi Community College Entrepreneurial Development Facilitator Bruce Hanson all signed papers requesting a change of venue. The papers were signed Aug. 11-12 and filed by Holliman”s attorney Steve Farese Aug. 24 in Lowndes County Circuit Court.
The motion claims “high public visibility” from intense media coverage of Holliman”s case has tainted the jury pool. It continues to say the crime Holliman is accused of “evokes great passion and prejudice in the community” and that “a large portion of jurors have formed an opinion as to the defendant”s guilt or become prejudiced or biased against him.”
Gerhart says the change of venue is necessary for justice to be served.
“To get a fair trial, yes. There”s too much publicity around here,” he said.
Gerhart admitted the Hollimans are personal friends of his.
Brown doesn”t specifically recall signing the papers, but agrees with the proposal.
“I may have (signed), I don”t remember. We sign a lot of papers. I do feel that it”s probably better off for both families, since both are here, that it be out of town,” said Brown.
Neither Smith nor Hanson could be reached for comment.
Holliman”s trial was recently continued to Nov. 30. Circuit Court Judge Lee Howard will decide on the motion to change venues Oct. 20.
Sixteenth District Attorney Forrest Allgood says a change of venue would result in yet another continuation.
Allgood said his office will oppose the motion and file its own affidavit with citizens testifying to the contrary of the original motion”s claims.
“We”re going to have to drum up some witnesses who will say that, ”We talked to people a lot and nobody has expressed to us an opinion one way or another,”” said Allgood.
Further publicity regarding the motion to change venue, if it were to evoke a reaction in the community, may work counter to his office”s attempts to prove a fair trial is possible in Lowndes County, he said.
Allgood said he doesn”t know where the trial may be moved to if the change of venue is granted, but he will continue to prosecute the case even if it falls outside his district.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.