Sutter County Superior Court Judge Laura Davis granted a motion by the defense to move the trial of Constance Addison to another county, according to Deputy District Attorney Diego Heimlich.
Addison, of Yuba City, was scheduled to be tried in Sutter County on March 30 for the murder of Alec Flores, 13, of Yuba City, as well as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run resulting in death or permanent injury, and misdemeanor child endangerment.
On Oct. 7, 2019, Addison allegedly hit Flores with her car, while she was drunk, as Flores walked to school. Addison’s children were in the car when the alleged crime took place. She was arrested later that day and bailed out the next.
On Tuesday, a hearing about changing the venue took all day as evidence was presented by the defense.
“The court noted that the standard to grant the motion is rather low, with the defense only needing to show that it appears that there is a reasonable likelihood that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had in this county, as opposed to needing to show any actual pre-trial prejudice,” Heimlich said in an email.
An expert witness who conducted a survey in the area to determine the likelihood of a fair trial being obtained in Sutter County testified during the hearing and presented news articles and social media posts about the case so far.
Heimlich said Davis considered several factors in deciding whether to grant the motion to change the venue.
Davis said the nature and gravity of the offense weighed slightly in favor of moving the trial; Addison’s status in the community supported keeping it in Sutter County; the prominence of the victim warranted moving the trial because of extensive social media presence, support from the community in the form of petitions, and support of businesses; and the size of the community and publicity of the case pushed Davis to grant the motion, according to Heimlich.
The district attorney's office opposed the motion.
The expert witness testified that out of a few hundred people that were surveyed approximately 80 percent believed Addison is either definitely or probably guilty based on the little information they heard.
“The fact that the case has been highly publicized in social media, and included references to some information that is not accurate, and the frequency as well as passions of the people commenting on social media has not diminished over time indicates the case has permeated this community so much so that a fair trial is unlikely,” said Heimlich of the court's position.
The March trial date in Sutter County was vacated and the next hearing will take place on Jan. 29 at 9 a.m. to see whether the Judicial Council of California has reached out and prepared a list of counties that are able to accommodate the trial, Heimlich said.
He said he will continue handling the case for the district attorney’s office until further notice.
“My personal preference would be for it to have been heard and decided by Sutter County jurors, but from a legal standpoint I believe the judge followed the law and ruled according to the law and information presented,” Heimlich said.