By Roz Weis,
District Court Judge Laura Parrish has denied a Winneshiek County man’s motion to change the location of his trial after being charged with murder.
The criminal complaint shows 43-year-old Aaron Whittle of Decorah stated he fatally shot Lawrence Whittle with a firearm and that it had happened on March 17, 2022, in the 2600 block of Sand Rock Road north of Freeport. The complaint goes on to report observations by law enforcement at the scene were consistent with what Aaron Whittle had described to them.
Attorneys for Aaron Whittle filed for a change of venue several weeks ago, requesting the trial be moved out of Winneshiek County due to pre-trial publicity.
In the motion to change the trial venue, Whittle cited media coverage and social media posts, and the fact that “many people in the Decorah area” know him as factors that could present difficulties in having a fair trial without prejudice. In a Dec. 6, 2022, courtroom appearance, Whittle’s attorneys presented 79 exhibits supporting the argument.
In her ruling last week, Judge Parrish said the pre-trial publicity had been sporadic and that the court was unable to find any inflammatory publication in the media or in social media posts, and that all news reports were found to be factual and informative, without providing any misleading or unfair information to the public.
The judge also stated that a pending juror questionnaire would discover “any potential problems related to their familiarity with the defendant or the victim.”
In her conclusion, the judge said there remains a likelihood that a fair and impartial trial can be held in Winneshiek County. A pre-trial conference is scheduled in early February.
Whittle’s attorney, Les Blair, filed a motion Jan. 6, to reconsider the judge’s ruling.