Defense argues for change of venue in Eveleth murder trial
VIRGINIA -- A nationally recognized jury consultant surveyed 227 people in the Virginia area and nearly all of them said they believed Jesaiah Lee Carlson was "probably guilty" or "definitely guilty" of stabbing to death 20-year-old Megan Anderso...
VIRGINIA -- A nationally recognized jury consultant surveyed 227 people in the Virginia area and nearly all of them said they believed Jesaiah Lee Carlson was "probably guilty" or "definitely guilty" of stabbing to death 20-year-old Megan Anderson at the Eveleth business where she worked in 2007.
That survey was commissioned by Carlson's defense team, which was in St. Louis County District Court today arguing that Carlson's trial should be moved from the Iron Range because he can't get a fair trial there.
Anderson, of Cook, was stabbed more than 20 times on Aug. 29, 2007, while she worked alone at Durkee Signs & Graphics in Eveleth. Carlson was a salesman for Allstar Advertising of Duluth and was in the Eveleth area at the time selling cutting boards and children's books. According to the criminal complaint, he told investigators he couldn't remember what happened during the time frame that Anderson was killed. A knife was found in Carlson's car that contained DNA compatible with Anderson's.
Defense attorney K. Scott Belfry has argued that the scientist who conducted the DNA analysis has a history of contaminating evidence and provided misleading information to jurors.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Gary Pagliaccetti denied an earlier defense request to move the trial from Virginia. The defense then hired Diane Wiley to conduct a survey of prospective jurors in the Virginia area.
Wiley is a founder of the National Jury Project and is a pioneer in the field of jury consulting. She is author of "Keeping the Jurors in Mind: Jury research, jury selection, themes and comprehension."
"She concludes that there's no reasonable possibility that my client can get a fair trial in the St. Louis County area," Belfry said after Thursday's hearing. "There is a high level of feeling within the community that my client is guilty even before any of the evidence can be heard at trial. And that those feelings are so strong that they won't be overcome by any kind of jury instruction or instruction of the court."
Belfry said Wiley conducted two phone surveys of Virginia area residents -- one in February and one in July. She determined that 93 percent of those surveyed had at least heard about the case. "What she found is that almost no one she interviewed in those questionnaires believed he was likely or probably not guilty," Belfry said. "I believe there was one respondent who said he was probably not guilty. Everybody else indicated probably guilty or definitely guilty."
Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Gordon Coldagelli has argued that Carlson can get a fair trial in Virginia. Coldagelli called Daphne Pedersen, a sociology professor at the University of North Dakota specializing in social psychology, to testify for the prosecution.
Pedersen said she had concerns about the validity of the conclusions drawn in Wiley's survey because of what she saw as shortcomings in the methodology of the survey.
Pagliaccetti took the matter under advisement. Both sides will submit written arguments in support of their positions. Carlson's trial is scheduled to start April 27. He's been held in the St. Louis County Jail since September 2007.