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Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 1996

DEATH

January 17, 1996

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— A teen-ager accused of committing a widely publicized murder will go before a judge soon to see whether his trial will be held in Franklin County.

The attorney for Nathan Earwood, 16, Topeka, has requested a hearing to argue that the teen-ager should be tried somewhere other than Franklin County in the Sept. 24 shooting death of 14-year-old Stephanie Perez.

The hearing has tentatively been scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday.

Scott Ryburn, Earwood's attorney, said he polled nearly 200 county residents and found that about 60 percent believed Earwood was guilty.

"They'd flat out say it," he said.

Fewer than 10 percent of the respondents thought Earwood was innocent, he said, while the rest had no opinion.

Ryburn said the poll results suggested that he could eliminate more than half of the potential juror pool by asking only a handful of questions. Because pretrial questioning for jurors is much more extensive, he said, he could envision eliminating most of the jury pool.

Under state law, the trial could be moved to another county if Ryburn can prove that Earwood could not receive a fair trial in Franklin County.

Earwood is charged with second-degree murder and two other felonies in the shooting death. Authorities claim that Earwood was among a group of teens who went to the Perezes' apartment to confront Stephanie's brothers, whom the teens considered rival gang members.

Stephanie died after being struck in the chest with a .22-caliber bullet. During a preliminary hearing, one of the teen-agers who accompanied Earwood to the apartment testified that he saw Earwood fire a .22 pistol several times at a group of people outside the apartment.

The homicide drew coverage from newspapers, television stations and radio stations in a range of northeast Kansas cities, including Ottawa, Lawrence, Kansas City and Topeka.

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