Drue attorney: Impartial jury extremely difficult

Posted at: 09/06/2013 12:42 AM
Updated at: 09/06/2013 10:34 AM
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - The attorney representing Dennis Drue says there's no way his client could receive a fair trial anywhere in the Capital Region. With that belief, Steve Coffey on Thursday filed a change of venue motion with the state Appellate Division in Albany.

Drue, 23, was behind the wheel last December when his car rear-ended an SUV on the Northway, killing two popular area high school students and seriously injuring two others.

"The underlying passion in this case is sub-volcanic anger," Coffey said.

Given the publicity in the case, Coffey says it would be "extremely difficult" to draw from the Saratoga County jury pool, which he insists places his client at a legal disadvantage.

Last Dec. 1 the deadly car crash on the Northway claimed the lives of Shenendehowa's football captain Christopher Stewart, 18, along with Shenendehowa softball star Deanna Rivers. Two other students, Matt Hardy from Shenendehowa and Bailey Wind from Shaker High School, were badly hurt.

In the days following the tragedy there was an overwhelming turnout of about about 10,000 people for a memorial on the Shenendehowa football field. There were other memorials and other special events in the weeks and months that followed.

There were also legal implications. Drue, who was driving the car that rear-ended Stewart, was indicted on Jan. 7 on 59 criminal charges, most of them felonies, including vehicular homicide.

"There is such a feeling about this case that everybody in Saratoga County knows about it," Coffey says.

If the Appellate Division grants the venue change, it becomes a big undertaking. Expenses for both sides would increase tremendously and taxpayers would pick up a good chuck of the cost.

"Society has a greater interest in understanding that there would be a fair trial," Coffey said. "Otherwise, then, we have the Salem Witches."

Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy tweeted on Thursday night that he opposes the venue change, calling the motion "premature," and saying they need to wait until jury selection begins in order to show the inability to get a jury.

Murphy also says he believes Saratoga County resident are fair and will give Drue a fair trial.

Murphy has eight days to respond to Coffey's motion with the court. The trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 30.