Judge moves Snider retrial to GarCo
Prosecutors plan to appeal a judge’s order that the retrial of Jerry Snider Jr. in connection with the 2009 death of his father in Rangely be held in Garfield rather than Rio Blanco county.
Gail Nichols, a judge for the 9th Judicial District, found the change of venue to be necessary because of the challenges in seating a jury in Meeker for the first trial and the publicity surrounding the mistrial that resulted when that jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.
“The difficulty in picking the first jury demonstrated that there are many people in (Rio Blanco) county who cannot be fair jurors because they either know too much of the case, or know potential witnesses too well,” Nichols wrote in her ruling.
Snider was charged with first-degree murder after allegedly killing Jerry Snider Sr. at the elder Snider’s Rangely home with a hatchet. The younger Snider has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
His first trial began in early January and lasted more than five weeks. The retrial is scheduled for May.
Martin Beeson, district attorney for the 9th Judicial District, said he will appeal Nichols’ ruling to the state Supreme Court.
“The court acknowledges in its order that we were able to empanel a fair and impartial jury in the first trial, so it clearly can be done,” he said.
Snider’s public defense team sought unsuccessfully to have the first trial moved, and it took longer than expected to seat the Meeker jury. In this week’s ruling, Nichols noted that by the time a jury was seated, as few as 10 more potential jurors remained out of a 130-person pool.
“Although the defense pointed out that Meeker and Rangely were small communities where people knew each other and exchanged news by word of mouth, the Court did not appreciate the impact this would have in jury selection,” she wrote.
Nichols also voiced concern that jurors in a second Meeker trial might know of the mistrial and feel a need to come to a verdict. In addition, she wrote that a Daily Sentinel report that 11 of the 12 jurors wanted to convict Snider would be prejudicial to potential jurors.
Before the mistrial, prosecutors had sought unsuccessfully to have Nichols dismiss the holdout juror for failing to disclose her son was a convicted felon and she knew some of the witnesses, Nichols wrote.
Nichols noted that holding the last trial in Meeker’s one, small courtroom created challenges for both that trial and other judicial proceedings there. By contrast, Garfield County has four courtrooms, she wrote.
However, she predicted more prospective Garfield County jurors are likely to seek dismissal for hardship. She wrote she “anticipates the potential jurors in Garfield County will not be so cooperative and willing to serve in a six-week trial as were the jurors in Rio Blanco County, the location of the crime.”
Both counties are in the 9th Judicial District. In 1999, a Glenwood Springs first-degree murder case was tried in Meeker because of pretrial publicity.