With his trial date in the Jonathan Pierce murder trial quickly approaching, Travis Gaylor’s attorney has filed a myriad of motions in the case.
Among the nine requests Steve Sams has made is a motion for a change of venue.
Citing “extensive coverage” by local and surrounding media outlets, Sams says Gaylor can’t receive a fair trial anywhere in the Eighth Judicial District. He wants the case transferred to the Sixth Judicial District, which is Knox County.
The motion says the coverage of the case, including the trial of Gaylor’s co-defendant, Miranda Kirby has been “highly inflammatory.” Sams also claims the news stories have contained “alleged links” between Gaylor, Kirby and Sammy Miracle, the third defendant in the matter.
As a supporting argument for his motion to change the location of the trial, Sams says prosecutors in the case have also recognized the potential for jury contamination. He says evidence of this is Gaylor being housed in two other jails, Scott and Claiborne, since the time of his arrest.
Sams’ change of venue motion may not come as a surprise to some but one of his others may.
Sams has also filed a motion claiming Gaylor has an alibi for the night Pierce died. According to the motion filed last week, Gaylor is contending he was at a relative’s home, asleep, that night in June 2006. Sams is claiming a witness exists that will verify that assertion at trial.
Sams is further asking the court rule Pierce not be referred to as the victim during the trial. According to the motion, using the term victim implies a crime has been committed. That undermines Gaylor’s presumption of innocence, he says. The term could also produce feelings of sympathy for the state’s case. In this particular motion, he refers to Pierce as the deceased.
Sams also wants the court to suppress any statements Gaylor made during his conversations with authorities about the case. He contends in a motion, Gaylor was arrested and held without probable cause. The statements Gaylor made during those interrogations were “wrongfully extracted” by officers who utilized deceitful and unmerited tactics taking advantage of Gaylor’s limited education.
Along with these requests, Sams wants the court to entertain a motion allowing him to question potential jurors away from other prospective jury members. Again referring to the extensive media coverage, Sams claims this move is necessary to obtain a fair trial for his client. In the same spirit of attempting to gain Gaylor a fair trial, Sams filed a motion asking the young man be allowed to wear his own clothes for court appearances.
Sams next asked prosecutors be ordered to provide to him, in writing, any evidence they have regarding Gaylor and any other crimes related to him they may introduce at trial. Sams further wants to know if prosecutors intend to impeach his client’s character, one of the motions says.
Sams also wants the last word in the matter. While prosecutors are traditionally allowed to present the final argument to the jury, Sams is fighting that. He has filed a motion asking he be allowed to have the final say “to fully answer” what prosecutors will say at the close of the proceedings.
Gaylor is facing a first-degree murder charge in Pierce’s death. Kirby was tried last year and found guilty of the same crime. She will spend the next 51 years in jail. However, her case is being appealed.
Miracle has a trial date set for later this year.
Sams said he expects to argue these motions on Feb. 2.