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Duluth murder trial moved to Brainerd

The man accused of fatally shooting a Duluth college student during a February 2017 home invasion will have his trial moved to Brainerd, a judge ruled.

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Deandre Demetrius Davenport

The man accused of fatally shooting a Duluth college student during a February 2017 home invasion will have his trial moved to Brainerd, a judge ruled.

Deandre Demetrius Davenport, 23, faces four charges including first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old William Grahek, allegedly the result of an attempted robbery of drugs and cash. He is facing a potential life sentence if convicted.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Mark Munger on Friday granted Davenport's motion for a change of venue based on extensive local news coverage of the case, concluding that there is a "reasonable likelihood that a fair trial cannot be held in St. Louis County."

Davenport's trial, scheduled to begin Dec. 4, will be held at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center. It could take up to three weeks.

"Media outlets with wide syndication in the area of St. Louis County have reported, and will continue to report, on this case extensively," Munger wrote in his order. "These outlets are the primary source of news for many in the community. The lack of a break between media coverage and the trial, along with the previous factual reporting, means that transfer of venue is the only way to ensure defendant's right to a fair trial."

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Munger, meanwhile, ruled that the trial of co-defendant Noah Anthony Charles King, 20, will remain in Duluth. That proceeding is scheduled to begin Oct. 29.

The judge said King "failed to provide the court with a substantial showing of prejudicial publicity warranting a change of venue."

Munger noted the case has received extensive attention, particularly because the victim was a University of Minnesota Duluth student and the son of a St. Paul police sergeant. Additionally, two other defendants this year pleaded guilty and were sentenced for their roles in the case. However, the judge said coverage has been factual and noted there has been a significant lapse in time since Grahek's death.

The difference in Davenport's case, Munger said, is that potential jurors would be exposed to coverage of King's lengthy trial in the weeks immediately before they are called to decide a case with the same basic allegations.

"Hearing details of how a previous trial progressed and the result of the case could likely lead to juror bias," Munger said. "This type of publicity is entirely different than the factual reporting that will lead up to (King's) trial because there is a higher likelihood of bias and only a small lapse in time."

St. Louis County prosecutors Jessica Fralich and Vicky Wanta opposed the change of venue request, arguing that the motion was made with "no evidentiary support" to conclude that Davenport's right to a fair trial had been compromised.

The prosecutors said the motion should be denied, with a right to renew it if jury selection in Duluth later proved problematic. Alternatively, they suggested moving the trial to the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia to minimize significant witness travel arrangements.

Davenport and King are each charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of intentional second-degree murder and attempted first-degree aggravated robbery. The first-degree charges carry mandatory life sentences with potential for parole only after 30 years.

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Noah Duane Baker, 21, is serving a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to intentional second-degree murder for his role in the home invasion. His sister, 24-year-old Tara Rai Baker, received six years of supervised probation for lying to police about the incident.

The final remaining defendant, Xavier Alfred Haywood, 28, who allegedly arranged the robbery and then harbored his co-defendants at a Superior hotel, is charged with a felony count of aiding an offender. He has a trial scheduled to begin March 19.

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Noah Anthony Charles King

Related Topics: BRAINERD
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