Judge denies change of venue request for Montgomery Police Officer

Jun 13, 2017

A hearing request to move a police officer’s murder trial out of Montgomery and to another city was held Tuesday morning. Alabama Judge Greg Griffin denied a motion filed by defense attorneys for Montgomery, Police Officer Aaron “Cody” Smith requesting that Griffin move his trial to a different city. 

Griffin’s ruling comes as the defense fights to remove him from the bench in this case. In May, the defense asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to force Griffin to recuse himself from the case due to the appearance of impropriety following social media posts made by the circuit judge.

The defense argues that race was injected into the case and 

(Left) Circuit Judge Greg Griffin (Right) Officer Aaron "Cody" Smith

would taint the juror’s decision. Smith’s lawyers cited ongoing news coverage from the media has played an issue in the “high profile case”.

Prosecutors say there’s no evidence that media coverage saturated the community or harmed Officer Smith because excessive publicity in this case is not the same as prejudice. Deputy District Attorney Lloria James filed a brief opposing the change in venue.  “The court says presumptive prejudice is rarely applicable and is reserved for the most extreme situations, prejudicial publicity usually consists of more than stating the charge and recording the trial and pretrial process. Excessive publicity does not automatically or necessary mean that publicity was prejudicial,” says James.

Prosecutors also cited that posters and yard signs seen around parts of the city have not interfered with the prospective jury pool.

In repose of today’s decision Smith’s legal team will request a hearing to argue Smith was acting in self-defense. “Alabama has a special statute for stand-your-ground that extends to law enforcement officers; this defendant is entitled to that hearing and we will file for it immediately” said Defense Attorney Mickey McDermott.  

Montgomery police officer Aaron Smith faces a murder charge for the shooting death of 58-year-old Greg Gunn. That shooting occurred in February 2016 when Smith stopped Gunn as he was walking home late at night from a neighborhood card game.

Judge Griffin has scheduled the hearing to begin Oct. 23.