Accused in trooper death says poll shows need for new venue

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Attorneys for a teen accused of killing a state trooper already have asked for a new venue.

Now they have conducted a poll to prove their point. A private investigator for the defense team representing 19-year-old Orlando Daniel Garcia surveyed 91 Tipton County residents about the Jan. 6 killing of trooper Calvin Jenks during a routine traffic stop in that county north of Memphis.

Ronald Lax, president of Inquisitor Inc., testified Friday that 86 percent of those surveyed were familiar with the case, 40 percent felt connected to Jenks or law enforcement, and 67 percent already thought Garcia was guilty.

"This is a fairly small county and this crime received a considerable amount of publicity and it was also the death of a very well-respected law enforcement officer," Lax said.

On Saturday, Columbia officials were to name part of State Route 50 after Jenks, who also was being posthumously named Trooper of the Year for his district.

After the hearing, Garcia's attorney Bill Massey said he'd prefer the December trial be held in Memphis.

Tipton County Circuit Court Judge Joe H. Walker said it may take him two weeks to rule on the change of venue and other motions. Garcia and Alejandro Chevo Gauna, 17, both of Austin, Texas, are charged with first-degree murder and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

The state is seeking sentences of life in prison without parole for both of them. Norm Jenks, the trooper's father, told reporters after the hearing,

"We're just going to leave everything in the hands of the Lord and we just hope for the best. I just want everyone to remember Calvin for who he was. He was a fine young man."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)