Opinions of potential jurors will determine whether or not Brian Holliman”s murder trial will be held in Lowndes County.
In a ruling issued this morning in Lowndes County Circuit Court, Judge Lee Howard decided to wait until the juror-vetting process to decide on the defense”s request for a change of venue.
“The court will hold its ruling in abeyance until voir dire is conducted, allowing the Court to determine whether the prospective jurors have knowledge of the issues involving the media coverage and rule violations which could unduly prejudice either side in the jury selection process,” reads the ruling.
Voir dire is the process of questioning potential jurors about prejudices.
Holliman”s attorney, Steve Farese, filed the request for trial relocation on Aug. 24.
The document goes on to say the venue will be changed if an impartial jury cannot be obtained. If an impartial jury can be found, “the trial will continue as scheduled.”
Howard states his concern about “obvious violations of the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice, specifically rule 9.01,” which addresses information which may not be released to the press during an investigation or trial.
The rule also forbids the disclosure of “The existence or contents of any confession, admission or statement given by the defendant.”
A Lowndes County Sheriff”s Office investigator told The Dispatch in October 2008 Holliman confessed to killing his wife, Laura Holliman, at their Caledonia home on North Wolfe Road.
Laura Holliman”s death initially was reported as a suicide; the mother of two was 24.
Farese pointed to a Dispatch story reporting Holliman”s alleged confession during the Tuesday change of venue hearing. It had a profound effect on public perception of Holliman”s guilt or innocence, he said.
District Attorney Forrest Allgood also acknowledged the report.
“The attached article says in the headline ”Defendant confesses.” I wish it didn”t, but it is what it is,” he said.
Jury selection for Holliman”s trial begins on Nov. 30.
Howard”s ruling also instructs the circuit clerk”s office to add an additional 50 potential jurors to the jury panel.
Brian Holliman has been free on bond pending his trial since November 2008 and previously pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Brian Holliman, 28, was arrested Oct. 29 by the LCSO; his bond was set at $1 million on Oct. 30 by the late Justice Court Judge Phillip Robertson. The defendant later was released on a signature bond, but was re-arrested the following day.
Sixteenth Circuit Court Judge Lee Howard in November 2008 reduced Brian Holliman”s $1 million bond to $200,000 because he had no prior capital convictions and had never been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.
Laura Holliman”s death originally was investigated as a suicide, but Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant and sheriff”s office investigators became suspicious of the death and began questioning Brian Holliman.
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