A murder trial for a Dove Creek man accused of strangling and killing his girlfriend has been moved from Dolores County to La Plata County, according to a court order issued Friday by 22nd District Court Judge Todd Plewe.
William Blackburn was charged with second-degree murder as an act of domestic violence after the death of 61-year-old Cindy Johnson on Jan. 7, 2014.
Prosecutors could not find an adequate number of suitable jurors in Dolores County because of relationships between potential jurors and possible witnesses in the case. Because the jury pool was exhausted in that county, Plewe declared a mistrial March 9.
“It has become obvious to the court, the district attorney and the defendant that a fair and impartial jury cannot be empaneled in Dolores County,” Plewe wrote in his order Friday.
Blackburn is instructed in the order to appear before 6th Judicial District Judge William Herringer at 8 a.m. April 8.
After the March 9 mistrial declaration, Plewe had reset the trial date to May 16, but that date has been vacated, according to the order.
The defense alleged that pretrial publicity regarding the case affected the Dolores County jury pool, but the court didn’t find that to be an issue, according to the order. Very few prospective jurors were dismissed because of pretrial publicity, the order states.
Timing conflicts in 22nd Judicial District Court made a change of venue to La Plata County – in the 6th Judicial District – necessary, according to the order. Plewe wrote that he expects Blackburn’s trial to take two to three weeks. Montezuma County has just one district courtroom for two district court judges, and 31 jury trials are currently on that court’s docket between May and September, the order states.
Attorneys for Blackburn had requested a change of venue on Sept. 23, but that motion was denied. The defense renewed its change-of-venue motion March 14. The defense also motioned March 11 to continue the jury trial, and the court granted that motion.