Judge denies change of venue request for capital murder trial - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Lubbock judge denies change of venue request for capital murder trial

Brian Suniga, 34 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center) Brian Suniga, 34 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center)

A Lubbock County District Court will proceed as planned with a capital murder trial, despite the defense requesting a change of venue and the dismissal of seated jurors.

Brian Suniga, 34, is behind bars at the Lubbock County Detention Center. He is going on trial for the 2011 murder of 26-year-old David Rowser, an employee at the "One Guy from Italy" restaurant. 

Police said Suniga and his cousin, Sesilio Lopez, robbed the restaurant at 50th Street and Quaker, allegedly shooting Rowser on the way out.

KCBD ran a story last month that gave some background information about Suniga. That information was obtained from public court documents. None of the information in that repot was obtained from conversations with anyone connected to the case; however, the defense still claims that report could influence Lubbock jurors.

In response, the court has issued a gag order preventing any communication regarding this investigation and prosecution with media. The defense wanted to go even further, but the judge denied their requests.

The gag order, issued by Lubbock State District Judge Jim Darnell, prohibits attorneys, witnesses, investigators and others involved in this investigation and/or prosecution from talking to the media.

This includes the Lubbock Police Department, sheriff's department, Texas Department of Public Safety, the District Attorney's office, and attorneys and investigators for Suniga.

The defense argues that Suniga cannot obtain a fair trial in Lubbock because of the KCBD report that ran in late April, so Suniga's attorneys requested that the court change the venue to a county outside the coverage area of television and newspapers in Lubbock County.

The defense also requested seated jurors be dismissed.  

On Thursday, Judge Darnell denied the defense's requests.  

He said they have now seated 12 jurors and will move forward with selecting two alternate jurors for this trial.

While Judge Darnell has denied the motion for a change of venue, he said he could re-consider it.

Judge Darnell said if everything continues as planned, Suniga's capital murder trial will begin on May 12th. 

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