Lewellyn’s attorney requests change of venue, waiving death penalty in Sydney Sutherland case

Report: Prosecutor says he is “absolutely” pursuing death penalty in case
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 10:16 PM CDT
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NEWPORT, Ark. (KAIT) - An attorney for Jackson County murder suspect Quake Lewellyn filed nearly 50 motions in court this week, asking for everything from a change of venue for his client to a change of clothes without restraints before appearing in court.

On Thursday, May 20, Little Rock attorney William O. James Jr. filed 47 motions and one notice in the Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of his client.

Lewellyn is accused in the August 2020 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 25-year-old Sydney Sutherland.

Among the more notable motions filed was a request that the trial is held in a different county.

In the change of venue request, Lewellyn, through his attorney, James asserts that “the minds of the inhabitants of Jackson County are so prejudiced against him that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had in Jackson County.”

As proof of possible bias, James cited several media stories about the case, a Sept. 19 “Celebration of the Life of Sydney” held in Tuckerman, a scholarship fund established in her name, and the renaming of an overpass in Sutherland’s memory.

“Nothing in this motion derogates the constitutional rights of the citizens of Jackson County to express their views. However, this expression cannot be permitted to work to the detriment of a defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial from an impartial jury,” James said. “An attempt to assemble an impartial jury in a small-population county inundated with the case is bound to fail. Change of venue is the mechanism to vindicate that right to a fair trial before an impartial jury.”

James told content partner KARK Friday that he and fellow defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig plan to present an argument at the trial.

“What happened was a horrible accident and nothing about it was intentional,” James told KARK.

Region 8 News attempted Friday to contact 3rd Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Cooper about the case. In the motions, James says Cooper has not waived the death penalty in the case.

Cooper told KARK that he was “absolutely” pursuing the death penalty in the case if the jury convicts Lewellyn.

Lewellyn also does not want the jury to consider the death penalty as a punishment should they convict him, citing the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. He also wants to suppress the display of any gruesome photographs or evidence during the penalty phase.

His attorney also filed a motion to prevent “victim impact” evidence from Sutherland’s friends and family members. He also asked the court to prohibit “displays of emotion” in the courtroom.

Lewellyn’s attorney has also requested that the trial be limited to 4-day weeks, that witnesses in the case are sequestered and to allow defense attorneys to question jurors “individually and apart from all other jurors, to sequester those who have been questioned separately from those who have not until such time as the jury has been selected; and to admonish prospective jurors not to talk with one another regarding the case.”

One motion even requests that Lewellyn be permitted to “shower, shave, brush his teeth and other acts of personal hygiene every day before the trial.”

Lewellyn’s trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 28.

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