The trial of a man accused of killing two men at a downtown Columbus bar began today in Lowndes County, despite a motion for change of venue.
Daniel Paul Copple, 44, of 31725 Kingly St. in Lucerne Valley, Calif., is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
The defense made the motion for change of venue this morning in Lowndes County Circuit Court on the heels of the case’s recent coverage by local media.
Sixteenth Circuit Court District Judge Jim Kitchens denied the motion, after listening to testimony from representatives of media outlets and polling potential jurors.
The Commercial Dispatch published an article in Sunday’s paper previewing the trial and citing court documents. WCBI television station also ran a story previewing the case during Sunday’s 10 p.m. news broadcast and again this morning.
The incident took place in the early morning hours of Feb. 16 at the Elbow Room on Second Avenue and Fifth Street North in Columbus. Copple is charged with the shooting deaths of Mark Caudill, 33, of Birmingham, Ala., and James Bennett Mann II, 42, of 418 Second Ave. N. in Columbus. He also is accused of threatening bartender Michael Ward, which accounts for one of the aggravated -assault charges.
Another aggravated-assault charge stems from an unrelated incident and could be tried at a later date. Copple is accused of hitting Columbus pedestrian Carl Edward Allen with his white Ford F-150 near the intersection of Third Avenue North and Eighth Street North.
The trial this week will only be for the two counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.
Public defender Steve Wallace argued for a change of venue, saying people could already have prejudicial thoughts about Copple’s guilt, so he would not be able to receive a fair trial. Wallace brought Donna Smith and William Starks, both from Columbus and both public defenders, to the stand. Both said they have heard people make prejudicial comments.
District Attorney Forrest Allgood brought Sarah Fowler, associate editor for The Columbus Packet, Steve Rogers, WCBI assignment editor, and Lisa Younger Neese, Lowndes County chancery clerk, to the stand. All three said they have not heard any prejudicial comments made recently.
A decision on the motion is still pending.
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