By Deb Murphy
Judge Brian Lamb denied the prosecution’s request for a change of venue in the Raymond Bencoma trial. Adhering to the requirement that retrials have to begin within 60 days of a mistrial, Lamb set the date at August 28 at the courthouse in Independence.
In addition to her written petition, assistant district attorney Dee Shepherd asked to provide additional information. She indicated flyers had been posted on the Bishop Paiute Reservation “asking for support (for Bencoma) and stating ‘come hear the truth.’” Citing a tainted jury pool, due to the media “and the community,” Shepherd felt Mono County was too close and the trial should be moved to San Bernardino or Fresno county.
Bencoma’s first trial ended in early May with a conviction on possession of ammunition and a firearm by a felon, a not-guilty on possession of stolen property and a hung jury on four charges of assault with a firearm on law enforcement. Jury selection for the retrial on the assault charges began June 26. By the afternoon of June 29, the jury pool was exhausted without seating the required 12 jurors and alternates.
“In my experience, it is not impossible to seat a jury,” Lamb said in denying the request to move the trial. “The defendant has a right to have the trial in this county… To be fair and impartial, you don’t have to know nothing” about the case.
The charges against the defendant stem from an incident in August of last year. Four officers approached Bencoma’s home to question the defendant on domestic violence allegations. According to the prosecution, Bencoma appeared from behind a shed with a firearm pointed at the officers.