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Freedom officials’ attorneys cite potential juror bias

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Defense attorneys are seeking to have the cases of two former Freedom Industries executives tried elsewhere, saying the two men can’t get a fair trial in West Virginia.

Attorneys for Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell filed the motion Monday, saying there has been extensive prejudicial media coverage and citing their study that said a majority of potential jurors in the Southern District of West Virginia already view the men as guilty.

They also said many eligible jurors were affected by last January’s chemical leak, which affected the water supply for 300,000 residents in nine counties. Attorneys said one in six West Virginians were directly or proximately affected by the leak.

“Absent a change of venue, these Defendants cannot receive a fair trial,” their motion said.

In the change of venue study, which was attached to attorney’s motion, 904 potential jurors were interviewed in all four divisions in the Southern District — Huntington, Charleston, Beckley and Bluefield.

The study said nearly eight in 10 prospective jurors in Charleston said Southern is “definitely” or “probably guilty” of the charges against him and more than three-fourths viewed the same for Farrell.

 It said there is a “similarly strong bias against defendants in the Huntington Division…

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