Updyke trial delayed, continuance issued
Harvey Updyke's trial has been delayed in the wake of the publicity stemming from Andrew Yawn's recent article in The Auburn Plainsman.
Updyke seemed calm and confident as he strode toward the Lee County Justice Center earlier today.
Various media outlets approached Updyke's lawyer, Everett Wess, but steered clear of Updyke.
Wess continued to assert that the statements made by Plainsman reporter Andrew Yawn in the Tuesday, June 19 article were false and that Updyke had not made a statement of confession.
Juror selection proceeded normally, with 10 jurors being questioned about their level of knowledge pertaining to the case.
Many potential jurors viewed the case in an alternative light because of information they had received and their backgrounds.
One woman, a former psychiatric nurse, said she would be able to be unbiased because of her previous work, and that she "understood his plea," indicating that she understood Updyke to be mentally unsound.
Another woman, a telephone sales operator for Great Southern Wood, said she had heard comments about the case from calls she had made to Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama.
These statements regarding telephone calls from other states were heavily scrutinized by the defense, who further renewed their motion for a change of venue.
Two men also testified that family members had been persistent in asking them about the case.
One man stated that his brother called him trying to talk about his involvement, and another man had a similar story concerning his mother contacting him.
After the jurors were questioned, Wess stated that it would be "virtually impossible to keep the jury sterile" if the trial remains in Lee County.
Judge Jacob Walker seemed to agree with Wess, commenting about the difficulty in selecting jurors.
"These jurors are doing the best they can, and people are intentionally interjecting them," Walker said.
Walker granted a continuance for the case, but stated that especially due to the Great Southern Wood employee's testament indicating the far-reaching publicity of the case a change of venue was unlikely.
"We can't move it around the state, because people seem to know about it everywhere," Walker said.
The gag order for witnesses of the trial remains in effect, especially pertaining to witnesses talking to any media outlets.
District Attorney Robbie Treese joked about the possible change of venue in his closing statement to the court.
"We object to moving it to Rhode Island," Treese said.
After the court was adjourned, what had been a pensive and collected Updyke became visibly upset and was escorted into the witness room.
All media was then ordered out of the courthouse.
Later, outside the courthouse, Wess clarified to media that the trial was not a mistrial and that a continuance was an acceptable agreement between both parties.
"I still think a change of venue is appropriate, but that remains to be seen," Wess said.
Wess said that there were currently no timetables set for the case.
In discussing the continuance with media, Wess inquired if Yawn was present at the trial.
Yawn is currently a witness in the Updyke trial and under a gag order. Yawn cannot speak or report about the case.
Wess said that Updyke's wife Elva is still in Lee County to support her husband, but has been asked not to attend subsequent trials in order to avoid other media incidents.