[UPDATE] Jurors in Hilton Trial to be Questioned One by One

UPDATED 1.10.2011 by Julie Montanaro 11:45pm

Gary Michael Hilton has made a personal request for a change of venue, in addition to the 30 page motion filed by his attorneys.

A letter dated January 8th, includes Hilton's own signature at the bottom.

Hilton says "All of the publicity and comments thereof show that Tallahassee and Leon County has a bias in favor of Ms. Cheryl Dunlap and against me. I do not believe that these communities can fairly and impartially decide my guilt or whether I should die."

Also filed with the court are affidavits from four defense attorneys.

All four contend that folks in Tallahassee and Leon County are "unduly biased and prejudiced" against Hilton. One attorney even called it "impossible" to seat a jury that could fairly decide the case.

UPDATED 1.10.2011 by Julie Montanaro

Attorneys for accused killer Gary Michael Hilton have filed a 30 page request for a change of venue in the high-profile trial.

Hilton's attorneys have long voiced concerns that due to intense publicity that it would be difficult to seat a fair and impartial jury in Leon County.

The judge says he will try to seat a jury in the case here first, before considering any change in venue.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman says moving the trial would be expensive and cumbersome, and she too wants to try to seat a jury before the court considers moving it.

"Obvisouly, we want to try the case in the community where the crime occurred, Ms. Dunlap's community," Cappleman said.
UPDATED 1.7.2011 6:30pm by Julie Montanaro

Jury summons have gone out for the upcoming trial of accused killer Gary Michael Hilton.

Attorneys continue to do battle over how much those jurors will eventually see and hear in court.

Today, they argued for hours over a bayonet.

Gary Michael Hilton is set to stand trial January 31st. The judge has asked for 220 potential jurors to report that week and summons are already in the mail.

"The tool in question was a bayonet style knife," said FDLE Firearms Analyst Jeff Foggy.

Hilton's attorneys are hoping those jurors never see the bayonet in question - a bayonet like this one.

Prosecutors contend Hilton used one to slash a tire on victim Cheryl Dunlap's car and have forensic tests to prove it.

FDLE's Jeff Foggy did the lab work on that.

"And were you able to make an identification based on those microscopic imperfections?" asked prosecutor Georgia Cappleman.

"Yes, ma'am," Foggy replied.

But defense attorneys called an expert who says unlike dna, there are no scientifically objective standards to prove a particular bayonet was responsible for the mark only that a particular *type* of bayonet may have been used.

"And it's very difficult, because you get marks in tires," toolmark expert Dr. Adina Schwartz testified. "You don't know, you don't know what tool made it. You don't know what pressure. You don't know what angle of attack."

Judge James Hankinson reserved judgement, saying he'll review stacks of rulings and studies before deciding if the bayonet will be admissible in this court come time for Gary Hilton's trial.

Hilton's attorneys also asked the judge to send out questionnaires to all prospective jurors in hopes of speeding up jury selection.

Late this afternoon, the judge denied that motion, saying he feared that could make it even tougher to choose a jury because people might be tempted to study up on the case or try to come up with ways to get out of it.

UPDATED 1-7-2011 4:15pm by Julie Montanaro

Court administrators confirm that two batches of jury summons have already been mailed in the Gary Michael Hilton case.

The first batch for January 31st were mailed on December 30th and the second batch for February 1st were mailed on Wednesday. (1-5)

Danny Davis with court administration says the judge requested four panels of 55 potential jurors a piece for a total of 220.

Davis said they mailed out 530 summons in hopes of getting that panel of 220.

UPDATED 1-7-2011 4:10pm by Julie Montanaro

The judge has denied a request to send questionaires to potential jurors in the case.

[UPDATE] 1-7 11:00AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The defense is calling experts to the stand to try to have a bayonet declared inadmissible as evidence. The state contends Hilton used the bayonet to slash a tire on victim Cheryl Dunlap's car. Dr. Adina Schwartz testified that there are no objective scientific standards that will allow forensic scientists to prove that a "particular" tool was used to leave a mark, only that "that type" of tool was used.

Stay with WCTV.tv for updates.


[UPDATE] 1-7 9:50AM -- Julie Montanaro

The judge presiding over the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary
Hilton has asked to have 220 potential jurors summoned in the case.

The defense is asking the judge to send out questionnaires in advance to try to speed up jury selection, but the judge fears it could alert possible jurors that they are coming to hear the Hilton case and could make it difficult to seat a jury.

The judge says he is undecided and will make a decision later.

Stay with WCTV for updates on this story.


1.6.2011 by Julie Montanaro

Accused killer Gary Michael Hilton will be in court tomorrow (1-7) as attorneys get ready for his trial at the end of the month.

Hilton is accused of killing Crawfordville Sunday school teacher Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007 and dumping her body in the Apalachicola National Forest. He could face the death penalty if he's convicted.

Hilton's attorneys have filed more than a dozen motions . The judge today (1-6) ruled that prospective jurors will be questioned individually, behind closed doors about their knowledge of the case and any news coverage they have seen.

He denied a request to question them individually about their feelings on the death penalty.

The judge is expected to hear many of the other motions tomorrow.

Hilton's trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on January 31st.

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