Gull may rule soon on venue change

February 16, 2019

A judge Friday took under advisement a Fort Wayne man’s request to have his murder trial : he’s accused of killing a toddler : heard by jurors from outside Allen County.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull said she might decide next week whether to allow a change of venue for Mitchell Vanryn, 28, who is charged with murder, aggravated battery and domestic battery in the death of 2-year-old Malakai Garrett.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards and Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel and defense lawyer James Hanson argued their cases before Gull on Friday.

Gull already has approved having out-of-county jurors hear the case of Malakai’s mother, Amber Garrett, 27. That decision came after The Journal Gazette and WANE-TV published information last year from DCS records, some of which Gull said shouldn’t have been released.

Garrett is charged with two counts of felony neglect in the death of her son.

Vanryn said in court documents “prejudicial news-reporting or editorializing,” “speculative opinions as to the personality and character of the accused” and records from the state Department of Child Services that include allegations he abused the boy make it impossible for him to receive a fair trial with local jurors.

Richards said Friday pretrial publicity has been directed at Garrett, not Vanryn. “There’s nothing that stands out in this case,” she said. “Keep our trial dates. Keep our jurors in Allen County.”

Hanson argued the pretrial publicity, though directed at Garrett, assumes Vanryn is “already guilty.”

Malakai died Nov. 29, 2017. He had injuries to his internal organs : wounds consistent with strikes from a closed fist, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Vanryn’s trial is scheduled to start March 19. Garrett’s five-day trial is scheduled to begin June 24.


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