VALPARAISO — A judge was handed a large stack of papers Monday afternoon containing various news articles and social media posts that purportedly show an 18-year-old Valparaiso man charged with a double murder cannot receive a fair trial in Porter County.
The articles and posts were presented by the defense in their quest to have Connor Kerner's murder trial moved out of the county.
The request was to be argued in full Monday, but further action was postponed to give prosecutors time to interview the private investigator hired by the defense, who had reportedly compiled the articles and posts.
"The state has a right to a fair trial as well," Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford said in granting the delay.
The hearing is slated to continue at 1:30 p.m. April 6, at which time a pretrial conference will be held as well. The trial is scheduled for July 7.
Kerner, who wore jail garb and shackles, nodded to family members upon being brought into the courtroom. A much larger group attended in support of the deceased teens in the case.
Kerner is accused of killing Thomas Grill Jr., 18, of Cedar Lake, and Molley R. Lanham, 19, of St. John, on Feb. 25, 2019, in Kerner's grandparents' garage in Boone Township, according to court records.
Kerner, who was 17 at the time of the killings, reportedly told an informant he shot Grill after Grill tried to rob him during a drug deal.
"Grill fell to the ground and was begging for his life," according to police records. "Kerner advised that he panicked due to being out of bullets in the gun. Kerner then beat him (Grill) with a pipe wrench until he died."
Kerner then showed Grill's body to Lanham, court records allege. Kerner warned Lanham not to say anything about the death, and as she turned to leave, Kerner shot her in the head, police said.
The young man has pleaded not guilty to the two counts of murder and felony counts of intimidation and arson.
Defense attorney James Voyles reiterated the claim Monday that there has been too much public hostility against Kerner and media coverage of his case for him to receive a fair trial in Porter County.
He also cited public outrage over the alleged offense and "speculative opinions as to his personality and character," according to the motion. The defense blames the attention the case has received on social media.
A change of venue had been sought last year in another local murder case involving Hobart resident Christopher Dillard.
The repeated requests were denied by another judge, and the court was able to secure what was determined to be fair and impartial jury, which returned after nearly three weeks of trial to find Dillard guilty of murdering his co-worker, 23-year-old Nicole Gland.
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