The Trench Reynolds Report

All Crime Is Personal

Dyleski Judge Considering Change Of Venue:

Sorry to the people following this case. I found this article a couple of days ago and forgot all about it…

MARTINEZ — Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga heard testimony throughout most of Thursday on a motion for a change of venue made by the defense in the Scott Dyleski case.

“I believe that the nature and volume of publicity in this case have made it very unlikely that Scott could get a fair trial,” Contra Costa County Deputy Public Defender Ellen Leonida said outside the courthouse.

She questioned Robert Ross, a professor of political science at California State University, Chico, on the impact of pre-trial media coverage on the case. He said that a survey he had conducted of 306 Contra Costa County residents who would qualify as potential jurors showed that a high percentage of people had heard of the case and had formed an opinion as to Dyleski’s guilt or innocence.

Ninety percent of those surveyed said they recognized the case, Ross said. Of the people who recognized the case, 61 percent said they believed that Dyleski was guilty or probably guilty.

Using a statistical analysis, Ross said he concluded that an estimated 55 percent of the total jury pool has been contaminated by media coverage of the case.

In addition, of the 90 percent of people who said they recognized the case, 92 percent knew at least one additional fact about the case. Of the people who had heard or read that Vitale had been struck more than 39 times with a piece of molding, 75 percent said they believed Dyleski was guilty. Of the people who said they had heard that a “satanic symbol” had been carved into the victim’s back, 72 percent said they believed Dyleski was guilty. People who had heard that Dyleski had allegedly purchased marijuana-growing equipment with stolen credit card information, 70 percent believed he was guilty of murder.

“An exceedingly high number of people recognize the case and think the defendant’s guilty,” Ross said. “A very high number of people know a lot about the case.”

The findings show that people in the community have been following the case and that it has had an emotional impact on them, Ross said.

Prosecutor Harold Jewett questioned Ross on potential flaws in the survey. For example, the purpose of the survey is to determine whether or not people had formed an opinion on whether Dyleski was guilty or innocent, but the survey did not ask that question. Instead they asked people what their opinion was about the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

In addition, of the 748 people who qualified for the survey, 442 people refused to answer further questions. Only 306 people agreed to participate in the survey.

Jewett also took issue with the fact that Ross used the term “satanic symbol” to describe what was carved into Vitale’s back. Ross said he did not recall any newspaper article using the term “satanic symbol.”

Ross testified that in media coverage, the crime and subsequent legal proceedings had been described in strong emotional terms, such as “gruesome bludgeoning,” “stabbed and beaten,” “shocked,” “brutal and callous,” “blood-soaked carpet” and “words carved into her back.”

Ross, however, admitted that the words used were fact. After the hearing, he also told reporters that he felt the media coverage of the case had been accurate and fair to Dyleski. The media coverage had not, in his opinion, sensationalized the case, Ross said.

Zuniga is expected to rule on the motion soon as jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday.

I haven’t heard the symbol that was carved into Pam Vitale’s back referred to as satanic either, just “gothic”. However, it does make a compelling argument for a change of venue.

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