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Outside jury will hear Blank’s case

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 18, 1998

EDGARD – Daniel Blank, charged with the May 1997 murders of Sam and Louella Arcuri and Joan Brock, will be tried in St. John the Baptist Parish.But a jury from outside will be brought here to hear the case.

Fortieth Judicial District Judge J. Sterling Snowdy announced the decisionyesterday, ruling that “he (Blank) is entitled to a change in the venue of the trial.”Snowdy continued in his written opinion: “The court finds that a fair and impartial trial cannot be obtained in the parish where the prosecution is pending. The court, therefore, grants the defendant’s motion for a changeof venue.”Snowdy added he is in the process of determining which parish will empanel a jury untainted by pretrial publicity in the interest of justice.

Snowdy’s written opinion declared, “The court is in the process of selecting an appropriate parish for jury selection and will notify the parties as soon as the selection has been made. Once a jury is selected inthat parish, the jury panel and alternates will be transferred to St. Johnthe Baptist Parish where they will be sequestered until the completion of the capital trial. The jury trial will take place at Edgard, La., St. John theBaptist Parish, Louisiana.””I was real thrilled to get that decision,” said Glenn G. Cortello, Blank’sattorney. “I think it was a step in the right direction.”The change of venue ruling came after hearings in which Cortello and his co-counsel, Harold Van Dyke III, quizzed a sampling of St. John Parishresidents, 56 in all, to gauge the impact of reporting on the case on potential jury selection. Cortello also submitted newspaper articles fromarea newspapers to gauge the volume of pretrial publicity.

Trial is tentatively set in Edgard April 12 through May 7.

While Cortello is happy the jury won’t come from St. John Parish, he saidhe is concerned about the cost of bringing in a panel.

“The cost involved in a case like this will be very expensive,” he said, recalling a similar case in Rapides Parish which ended up costing $300,000, including housing, meals and security for the jury.

“The fact still concerns me that picking a jury from another parish will be hard on the jurors and their families.” Cortello said. “That’s asking a lotfor a juror to do.” Meanwhile, Blank faces more court dates. On Dec. 1-2 he is due to appearbefore 23rd Judicial District Judge John Peytavin in Donaldsonville on a change of venue motion for crimes he is accused of in that parish, and on Dec. 3-4 he is to appear there on a motion to determine the admissabilityof evidence of other crimes. On Dec. 8, a motion to attempt to suppressstatements by Blank’s girlfriend, Cindy Bellard, will be heard before Peytavin and, finally, March 2-31 is set aside for Blank’s trial in Ascension Parish.

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