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Murder trial to proceed in Davison County

A Mitchell man charged with murder was denied his request to have his trial moved to another county on Thursday afternoon. Counsel for James Brinker, 40, argued in a brief prior to the Thursday hearing at the Davison County Public Safety Center t...

James Brinker is escorted by jail staff into the courtroom at the Davison County Public Safety Center in this file photo. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)
James Brinker is escorted by jail staff into the courtroom at the Davison County Public Safety Center on Thursday afternoon. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)

A Mitchell man charged with murder was denied his request to have his trial moved to another county on Thursday afternoon.

Counsel for James Brinker, 40, argued in a brief prior to the Thursday hearing at the Davison County Public Safety Center that bias identified in questionnaires submitted by potential jurors warranted the trial being moved somewhere people were less familiar with the case.

"This hearing will garner more publicity. It's not a static situation," said Chris Nipe, one of Brinker's attorneys, in reference to the possibility of more of the potential jurors being swayed one way or the other on the case.

Brinker is facing charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in connection with the 2017 death of his wife, Marie Brinker. The brief submitted by the defense stated that 61 of the 163 questionnaires filled out by potential jurors "indicated a distinct bias against Mr. Brinker and an inability or an unwillingness to listen to the evidence at trial before finding Mr. Brinker guilty."

The potential Davison County jurors indicated, according to the brief, that much of their opinion is based on information publicized by The Daily Republic as Brinker's case has progressed.

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The defense argued that 37 percent of potential jurors showed a distinct bias, but that additional "middle-ground" questionnaires included comments that indicated that number could be closer to 45 percent.

Judge Chris Giles denied the defense's motion, which was originally filed in December 2017, and said that there will likely be a number of potential jurors who expressed bias who can be rehabilitated to be fair and impartial at Brinker's trial, which is set to begin May 6.

"The court wants to keep this trial on track as currently scheduled," Giles said.

A number of other motions were addressed at Thursday's hearing and were granted without objection, including discovery motions from both sides, a motion in limine by the state in regard to improperly motivated prosecution, and others. The court denied a motion for additional peremptory challenges while considering jurors.

The state has motioned to admit hearsay statements from Marie Brinker and evidence of the domestic relationship between James and Marie Brinker. Those motions, in addition to others to suppress statements made by James Brinker to law enforcement and Marie Brinker's history, will be considered on March 28 and 29.

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