The prosecution for the state of Indiana is requesting Amanda Dawn Carmack’s motion for a change of venue for her upcoming jury trial be denied.
Carmack’s lawyer David M. Payne filed a motion for a change of venue on March 10, claiming Carmack is unable to receive a fair trial in Grant County because of “Public hostility against the Defendant; Public outrage over the offense; Prejudicial news reporting or editorializing which castigates the defendant; (and) A social media (internet) petition requesting that the State seek the death penalty.”
Carmack is facing charges of murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in death, domestic battery death to a person under 14 and strangulation in connection with the death of 10-year-old Skylea Carmack of Gas City.
In a March 19 objection and response to the change of venue motion, Grant County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott J. Hunt said Indiana law states any request for a change of venue should be filed within 30 days of the initial hearing. Since Carmack’s request came 153 days past the deadline, Hunt argued the request should be denied.
Payne stated in his motion that while he is aware the request for venue change comes well after the 30-day limit, Carmack’s defense was not made aware of an online Change.org petition requesting Prosecutor Rodney Faulk seek the death penalty in the case until Feb. 17. The petition has more than 3,100 signatures, and Payne stated knowledge of the petition changed the defense’s view on whether a fair trial was possible in Grant County.
Hunt said in his response that the law does allow a change of venue to be requested if new discovery comes to light and certain requirements are met, but he claims Carmack’s defense did not meet those requirements.
The response also states Carmack’s request does not allege specific facts that would rise to the level of justifying a change in venue request and “relies upon bald assertions” of public hostility and outrage.
Payne asserted in a memorandum to the court that he believed many of the 3,162 people who have signed the Change.org petition were Grant County residents, but Hunt stated the petition is located on a national website with no evidence detailing where those who have signed the petition are from.
An accompanying affidavit from John Kauffman, an investigator with the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office, states it appears the petition was first made available on Sept. 7, 2019 and has been available every day since then to be viewed and signed by the public. Most of the signatures appear to have been added during September 2019, Kauffman stated, and it also appeared that “one or more persons were able to sign the Petition more than one time.”
“While Defendant’s concern over pretrial publicity bears some level of merit, Defendant utterly fails to explain why this concern, through reasonable due diligence, could not have been brought to this Court’s attention within the thirty days prescribed by [the law],” Hunt states in the response. “...Due diligence is not waiting close to six months to file for change of venue for a matter that, based upon the Defendant’s Verified Motion, was so publicized and widespread as to cause the type of prejudicial pretrial publicity necessary to sustain such a request.”
Hunt also claims the possibility of prejudice and bias is not sufficient for a change of venue request and the defense “must show both the existence of prejudicial pretrial publicity and the inability of the jurors to set aside preconceived notions of guilt.”
“In essence, Defendant is asking this Court to do exactly what the prevailing case law prohibits and that is to consider and conflate possible prejudice with that of actual and widespread prejudice,” the response states.
A hearing regarding the defense’s motion for a change of venue is scheduled for May 13 at 9 a.m. in Grant County Circuit Court before Judge Mark E. Spitzer. Carmack’s jury trial is currently scheduled for June 29 at 9 a.m. in Circuit Court.