Auburn murder suspect Desmonte Leonard is one step closer to getting a start date for his trial. He appeared in a Lee County courtroom today for a status hearing. The 23-year-old is accused of shooting three people to death and injuring three others at an apartment complex in June 2012.
The defense requested the trial begin in October or November. The State says they have a few older capitol murder cases that may take priority over this newer one. The judge will set a trial date at an August status conference.
In court Thursday, Leonard wore a pink shirt, much like his family members who came to support him.
The defense made a motion to allow Leonard to revisit the crime scene at University Heights apartment complex with his lawyers. Defense Attorney Susan James said it's critical to building their case because video that exists of the shooting may not show everything that happened. "You clearly see shots, but you don't know where they're coming from or what angle they're coming from or no one's placed Leonard or the other two individuals necessarily in any particular spot," said James.
The State said it would create numerous security concerns and media frenzy. The judge will review the motion.
James said they are waiting until the jury is brought in before they will request a change of venue for the trial. But, she anticipates a ruling similar to the Harvey Updyke trial, where a change of venue was granted before Updyke took a plea deal. "When you mix football in, just like in that case, but you mix the tragedy that went on here, it's just going to be, we think, virtually impossible to find jurors that don't have knowledge of the facts of the case or have talked about it in the community amongst themselves," James said.
Part of the hearing was sealed and only the defense and judge were allowed in the room while they discussed an unknown matter.
James said her client is holding up pretty well after nearly a year in jail and is ready for the trial to begin.
A status hearing was originally set for Mar. 20, but Leonard was never transported from Montgomery, where he is being held, to the Lee County Detention Center. James said it was a miscommunication with the Auburn Police Department.
Leonard has pleaded not guilty in the case. He is facing six charges, including capital murder, attempted murder and assault.
Former Auburn football players Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian were killed in the June 9 shooting. Demario Pitts of Opelika was also shot to death.