Judge denies change of venue for Kori Muhammad trial

A Fresno County Superior Court judge has denied a change-of-venue request in the case of Kori Muhammad.

He's accused of a racist killing spree in Central Fresno in 2017 and death of a motel security guard.

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Despite the defense motion, the judge said there's not enough evidence showing Muhammad cannot get a fair and impartial jury in the County.

The judge denied the change of venue without prejudice, meaning it can still be revisited during jury selection. But for now, the trial is moving forward in Fresno County.

Despite the defense claims, intense media coverage will hinder Kori Muhammad from getting a fair trial.

"The pretrial publicity has been significant. This case has a lot of emotional issues attached to it. We're also concerned about some of the reporting and some of the sensationalism of the case that it could be difficult to find a fair and impartial jury," said Muhammad's attorney Richard Beshwate.

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Legal analyst Ralph Torres said getting a trial moved requires some concrete proof the jury pool is biased or tainted in the current county.

Muhammad is accused of killing a man at a Motel Six, then five days later going on a shooting rampage in downtown Fresno and killing three others. The victims were all men. Investigators do not believe Muhammad knew any of them personally.

A survey conducted by the defense asked 100 people various questions. 65 percent of those surveyed who heard about the case said they could still be fair and impartial.

"I think the judge is saying Fresno County is a big enough pool that we can find a jury here," said legal analyst Ralph Torres.

But the change of venue issue isn't totally over yet. During jury selection, depending on what jurors are reporting, it could either give the case to move more credibility or make it moot. Muhammad's legal team isn't sure a fair trial is possible in the Central Valley.

Unlike previous hearings, Muhammad did not have any outbursts in court on Thursday. The trial is set for May.
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