Change of venue requested

Published 9:53 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A man charged with murdering a local businessman argues news reports have attempted to “glamorize” the case “with a mixture of sex and gunplay for reader appeal,” according to his attorney’s filing in Suffolk Circuit Court.

Lori Butts filed the motion Dec. 24 for a change of venue for her client, Katron Walker, 32.

Walker and a co-defendant, Leon Hayes, 34, face first-degree murder and five other charges stemming from the Sept. 22 slaying of 82-year-old Donald Carter outside his East Washington Street furniture showroom.

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Another co-defendant, Naomi Lambert, 23, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and four other charges Monday.

Walker also appeared Monday for a scheduled arraignment. But Suffolk Circuit Court Chief Judge Carl Edward Eason Jr. ordered a mental evaluation — also requested by Butts — before considering the change of venue request or any other motions.

In her filing, Butts alleges that articles in local newspapers “may be characterized as sensational in nature, depicting Mr. Walker as being involved in a conspiracy over an elderly man who had dealings with prostitutes.”

More recent stories cite court testimony by a commonwealth witness that Carter took the witness, Lambert and another female to his business premises, where he offered to pay for sex.

“A reading of these articles … clearly shows an attempt to glamorize the immediate parties with a mixture of sex and gunplay for reader appeal,” the filing states.

“These articles written during the course of the case serialize the events surrounding this incident, include statements allegedly made by all of the persons charged in this matter, statements from alleged neighbors of Katron Walker, as well as detail the alleged victim’s involvement with prostitutes in the City of Suffolk.”

Attached to the motion are copies of stories from at least five news outlets — the Suffolk News-Herald, The Virginian-Pilot, The Daily Press, WAVY and WTKR, but the motion singles out the Suffolk News-Herald, “which is widely circulated throughout the City of Suffolk.”

“Due to the news media overage, the interest stimulated by the newspaper articles and by virtue of the general knowledge in the community that Katron Walker was allegedly involved, Katron Walker is precluded from receiving a fair trial in Suffolk, Virginia,” the motion argues.

The media coverage would render it impossible to effectively weed out biased jurors without prejudicing other members of the jury panel, the attorney argues.

“It is impossible that a juror who has knowledge of defendant’s alleged involvement would separate such knowledge from his/her own mind and give the defendant a fair and impartial trial,” the filing states.