Herald-Whig

Gavin retrial scheduled for April 8 in Adams County

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 15, 2019 1:30 pm

QUINCY -- A second murder trial for Steven E. Gavin is scheduled to begin April 8 in Adams County Circuit Court.

Judge Robert Adrian on Friday denied a defense motion to move the trial to Rushville. Adrian also ruled in favor of a motion by the prosecution to hold some pre-trial evidentiary hearings without the public or news media present.

"The court sees no good reason to allow the public to know about evidence that may not be heard in trial," Adrian said.

Gavin faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed robbery in the Nov. 23, 2015, shooting death of Carlous Wires at 706 N. Fourth. Gavin is accused of shooting Wires twice in the head after a disagreement when Wires reportedly attempted to buy crack cocaine from Gavin.

The first trial was declared a mistrial in February after a jury of nine women and three men deliberated for 13 hours and said they were deadlocked. Two jurors from the case who spoke with The Herald-Whig said the jury had voted 11-1 in favor of convicting Gavin.

On Friday, Adrian said he had some misgivings about closing hearings. He said the "public has a right to know" what evidence is brought but said until that evidence is heard at trial, there are sound reasons for keeping motions or evidence under seal.

Assistant State's Attorney Josh Jones had sought to close evidentiary hearings to avoid the kind of pretrial publicity that preceded the murder trial of Steson Crider in 2015. Jones said an evidentiary hearing in that case laid out the evidence and testimony the prosecution would use. It was reported in The Herald-Whig before the trial began, making it more difficult to seat an impartial jury.

"That's not a mistake we're going to make again," Jones said.

Defense Attorney Drew Schnack had argued to have hearings held in open court.

Schnack also had requested a change of venue to Rushville. He said extensive news coverage of the first trial would make it very difficult for Gavin to get a fair and impartial trial in Adams, Brown or Pike counties. Schnack had done an online poll in which he said more than half the respondents said they had formed opinions on Gavin's guilt or innocence.

"In weighing the possibility of a fair and impartial jury ... we should err on behalf of" the defendant, Schnack said.

Jones said the best evidence of whether a fair and impartial jury can be empaneled only will be known as prospective jurors are questioned.

Adrian denied the motion for a change of venue but said if there are doubts about seating an impartial jury, the decision might be reconsidered. Adrian also said he would be asking extensive questions of prospective jurors and welcomed attorneys to let him know of any additional questions they might want him to add.