Murder suspect's wish list erased

Judge just says no to laptop computer, change of venue requests from Rector's attorneys

Justin James Rector

Justin James Rector

KINGMAN - From a change of venue to providing a jailed murder defendant with a laptop, Judge Lee Jantzen denied a host of requests from defense attorneys representing a man facing the death penalty in rulings issued Friday.

The judge denied a request from attorneys Gerald Gavin and Ron Gilleo to move Justin James Rector's murder trial out of Mohave County. They claimed pretrial publicity of the case, which began in early September 2014, when the body of 8-year-old Bella Grogan-Cannella was found buried in a shallow grave in a Bullhead City wash, tainted the local jury pool.

Jantzen acknowledged there was a "substantial amount" of pretrial publicity when Rector, 27, was charged with the girl's murder - the Mohave County Medical Examiner determined she was strangled.

He also noted the media heavily covered Rector's initial court hearings, but since then, the "media attention thus far has not been 'outrageous' and has not created a 'carnival-like atmosphere.'"

Jantzen said the more recent coverage has focused only on what occurs in hearings and court filings.

The attorneys failed in their bid to provide Rector unfettered access to a laptop computer he would keep in his cell in order to review the evidence against him and assist his attorneys.

Jail staff raised several objections to the request, most based on the safety of personnel and inmates. They also argued there is a room available for Rector to review CDs and DVDs, and all he has to do is reserve a time to do so.

Jantzen said the jail policy was "reasonable" and he was confident Rector's privacy would be protected.

Jantzen also denied a request to forbid law enforcement officers from wearing uniforms or displaying firearms or other weapons in the courtroom. The request included detention officers showing their badges or weapons.

Jantzen said jurors would not be surprised by the presence of courtroom security in general, and would not necessarily infer Rector is dangerous or culpable.

Jantzen also denied a request that jury selection take place with only one potential juror being questioned at a time outside of the presence of other prospective jurors, that jury summons not contain any references to the Rector case, that the state disclose the identities of any confidential informants, and that the judge ban witnesses from all hearings between now and when Rector's trial begins in about a year.

The attorneys did not go home empty-handed. Jantzen granted a request to delay any mental health, IQ or any other testing of Rector until they gather his mental health records.

Rector's next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9.

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