Prosecutors want to move Bass Webb trial from Harrison County to Pendleton County

Case less publicized near Cincinnati

gkocher1@herald-leader.comDecember 16, 2011 

CYNTHIANA — Prosecutors want to move the murder trial of Bass Webb to Pendleton County because that county has not been exposed to as much pretrial publicity about the case.

CYNTHIANA — Prosecutors want to move the murder trial of Bass Webb to Pendleton County because that county has not been exposed to as much pretrial publicity about the case.

In a motion filed this week, Commonwealth's Attorney Doug Miller said the trial should be moved to Pendleton County because it "is in the Cincinnati media market and has not been exposed to the pretrial publicity about this action, if exposed at all."

Webb, 32, was to have gone on trial this month in Harrison County, but Circuit Judge Jay Delaney issued an order Monday saying a change of venue was necessary because of extensive publicity. Harrison County is in the Lexington media market.

Webb is accused of killing his estranged girlfriend, Bryia Runiewicz, 31, who was found dead in her Harrison County home on July 31, 2009. If convicted, Webb could face the death penalty.

Pendleton County is the logical place to move the trial, Miller argued in the motion, because it is part of the 18th Judicial Circuit, along with Harrison, Nicholas and Robertson counties.

"It is well-settled law," Miller wrote, "that if a court decides to grant a change of venue for any reason, it must transfer the case to an adjoining county if a fair trial can be held there. It is preferable that said 'adjoining' county be a county within the same judicial circuit."

In addition, the Pendleton County Justice Center in Falmouth "is a facility which will be much more amenable to conducting such a trial."

During a Thursday conference on where to move the trial, the judge made no decision but set a schedule for the defense and prosecution to file written responses on the matter. Another pretrial conference is scheduled Jan. 18.

Tom Griffiths, one of the public defenders for Webb, indicated no preference Thursday on where to move the trial.

"The reality is, we want to find a county where the jurors can have an open mind about Bass Webb and about the case," Griffiths said. "How far away that needs to be away from here, I don't know right now."

Meanwhile, Griffiths said he wants to supplement his motion challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty with a recent study from the American Bar Association.

The ABA report, released Dec. 6, says Kentucky should halt executions because there is a high rate of convictions being reversed, no standard for attorneys handling capital cases, and few protections against executing the mentally disabled.

Miller, the commonwealth's attorney, said that he had not seen the report but that the study is "not a matter of law."

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