Judge orders change of venue in Lewellyn case

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 3:20 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:31 PM CDT
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NEWPORT, Ark. (KAIT) - A judge issues a change of venue for a Jackson County man accused of capital murder and rape in the death of a woman in 2020.

Circuit Judge Rob Ratton ordered Monday the case be moved to Lawrence County, according to online court records.

In July, defense attorneys for Quake Lewellyn asked to move the case out of Jackson County and into another county in the judicial district.

In addition to Jackson County, the 3rd Judicial District includes Lawrence, Randolph, and Sharp counties.

Quake Lewellyn faces kidnapping and abuse of corpse charges in Sydney Sutherland’s death.

Lewellyn’s attorneys argued that it would be hard and nearly impossible to get an impartial jury in the case. According to Arkansas Code 16-88-201, a case can be moved to another county.

“Any criminal cause pending in any circuit court may be removed by the order of the court, or by the judge thereof in vacation, to the circuit court of another county whenever it shall appear, in the manner provided in this subchapter, that the minds of the inhabitants of the county in which the cause is pending are so prejudiced against the defendant that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had in that county,” the law noted.

There were four defense witnesses Friday, July 23, three of whom lived in the Newport and Tuckerman area.

Each of the witnesses was asked if they had heard about the case, heard someone talk about it, or if people could be impartial about hearing the case.

There was a fourth witness from the Arkansas Public Defender Commission, who showed news articles about the case as well as signs and billboards about the case.

There were also two pieces of video of an interview done by a Little Rock television station with Sutherland’s mother shown in court, plus a podcast from Nancy Grace.

However, prosecutors said the witnesses Friday were from three of only 14 townships in the county and that each sign supported Sutherland and none of the signs called for the prosecution of Lewellyn.

Prosecutors also said the defense provided only assertions that a fair trial could not be done in the case.

Lewellyn is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 4 for a second hearing on a series of defense motions in the case.

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