A Washington man accused of murdering a Ketchikan surgeon in spring of 2017 will be tried in Juneau rather than Ketchikan.
Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens made that decision last week, citing extensive pre-trial news coverage. He writes that the publicity could make it challenging to find an impartial jury in Ketchikan, a community of about 14,000.
In his Sept. 17 ruling, Stephens writes that, in addition to his concerns over publicity, a large number of potential jurors likely will have had a relationship with the victim, Dr. Eric Garcia.
Jordan Joplin, 33, has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree murder for Garcia’s March 16, 2017, death.
The prosecution opposed changing the venue before attempting to seat a jury in Ketchikan. They argued it would not be known whether impartial jurors could be found until the court has gone through that process.
In his ruling, Stephens agrees that making that attempt is the preferable course of action. However, he writes there are times when moving a case before a trial starts is appropriate. In this case, Stephens writes, local and statewide media have published numerous, detailed news stories. He says that type of news story usually is read more thoroughly than others, especially when a victim is well known.
Stephens writes that it appears highly unlikely an impartial jury can be selected in Ketchikan. He says Juneau has a larger jury pool, and potential jurors would have less personal interest in the case.
Stephens did not change the date of Joplin’s estimated three-week trial, which is set to start Nov. 5 at the Juneau Courthouse. His next scheduled hearing is Oct. 5 in Ketchikan.