Beach had filed for change of venue based on media saturation, stating the amount of newspaper clippings, alone, was an adequate basis to presume prejudice and impartiality among the county's prospective jurors.
“A change of venue is necessary in this case because extensive and ongoing pretrial publicity makes it presumptively impossible to seat an impartial jury in this county,” wrote Beach's attorney, William N. Eachus of Gallipolis.
He also stated, “Because this is such a high profile case, changing the venue is the only way to vindicate defendant's state and federal constitutional rights to effective assistance of counsel, due process of law, equal protection of the law, confrontation of the state's evidence against him and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.”
“Extensive media coverage coupled with this degree of public engagement exponentially expands the depth and breadth of the prospective jurors' knowledge of what they perceive to be the facts in this case, and, undoubtedly, the firmness with which many now hold opinions about defendant's purported involvement in the incident.”
The state disagreed, using the 2004 trial of Shawn Burton, former Gallia County deputy sheriff and local volunteer firefighter who was charged with rape, kidnapping and bribery relating to the alleged sexual assault of two minor children, to support its position.
“The state is aware of only newspaper articles in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune at the time of the defendant's (Beach) arrest, preliminary hearing and indictment, and brief reports on WCHS Channel 8 news at the time of defendant's preliminary hearing, indictment and waiver of speedy trial time limits.
“All of the reports contained similar information: that the defendant was accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend, who was seriously injured, and the amount and conditions of the defendant's bond,” wrote Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Mulford. “Such certainly does not rise to the level of ‘extensive pretrial publicity' sufficient to warrant a change of venue.”
Mulford went on to compare the change of venue motion in the Beach case to the change of venue motion in the Burton case, who also requested a change of venue on the basis of extensive pretrial publicity, citing several newspaper articles in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune and The Columbus Dispatch, in addition to reports on WSAZ Channel 3 news.
The Burton motion was denied and he was ultimately tried in Gallia County.
“The type and amount of pretrial publicity in the instant case is certainly less extensive than that in the Burton case,” wrote Mulford.
The state also filed responses to the other motions filed by Beach's attorneys, including a motion to prohibit displaying tangible things during trial and a motion to exclude photographs of the victim from the trial.
In the motion to exclude tangible things, Eachus argued that allowing the display of certain tangible evidence throughout the trial and before it is admitted into evidence would distract the jurors' attention, unfairly and disproportionately amplify those items above their relative importance to the case, and if the evidence was later found inadmissible, the jury would not be able to erase the images from their memory.
“...(G)iven the nature of the evidence that the state is certain to attempt to admit, if this gruesome evidence is constantly before the jurors during trial it will most certainly undermine defendant's constitutional rights to a full and fair adjudication of the offense charged,” wrote Eachus.
The state did not object to the defendant's motion to prohibit the constant display of exhibits when the exhibits were not being actively used during the examination of a witness, but did object to the motions to prohibit the state from using and/or displaying any exhibit in the view of the jury while questioning a witness, regardless of whether the exhibit has been admitted into evidence and to the extent that the motion sought to limit the state's use or display of the exhibits during the state's opening statement, closing argument, and/or rebuttal argument.
“To prohibit the state from using, displaying or otherwise referring to exhibits during the examination of a witness would unjustly limit the state's ability to present its case and examine its witnesses in accordance with the Ohio Rules of Evidence,” wrote Mulford.
In the defendant's motion to exclude photographs of the victim, the defense states the gruesome nature of the photographs taken at the scene of the incident and in the hospital would “surely inflame the passions of the lay jurors,” impacting the ability of the jurors to act impartially and impeding the defendant's right to a fair trial.
“The display or admission of these gruesome photographs to the jurors will be inflammatory and jeopardize defendant's right to a fair trial because of the significant risk that the jury will base their decision on emotional grounds which play no valid part in a criminal prosecution,” wrote Eachus.
The state countered by noting the photographs are necessary to prove its case.
“Here, defendant is charged with attempted murder,” stated Mulford. “To prove its case, the state must show that defendant purposely attempted to cause the death of the victim.”
He went on to say the photographs were necessary to illustrate the testimony of the witnesses, police officers, emergency medical personnel and the physicians as to the extent of the victim's injuries and location of the assault.
“Finally, photographs depicting the victim in a ‘beaten condition' are admissible in a prosecution for attempted murder, even where the defendant argues that photographs depict nothing more than the extent of the beating, are cumulative, and would inflame the jury's sympathy for the victim,” wrote Mulford.
The hearing on pending motions is set for Wednesday, June 27 at 1 p.m., and the trial is tentatively set for Aug. 7 at 9 a.m.
Beach was indicted by the Gallia County grand jury for attempted murder following his arrest on Jan. 11 for allegedly beating and kicking 26-year-old Heidi Peifer on the sidewalk in front of the Courtside Bar and Grill on Second Avenue.
Peifer was transported by Gallia County EMS and later taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital with severe trauma to her head and face.
Beach is currently under house arrest, in accordance with court orders, after posting bond in February.