A former Boulder, Colo., police officer is so hated for his alleged on-duty poaching of a trophy elk that he can’t get a fair trial, he argued in a request to change venues.
Sam Carter and another former officer, Brent Curnow, are scheduled for trial in October, but what his lawyer called a one-sided “media furor” over the elk’s killing has irreparably tainted the jury pool, he argued.
The men resigned from the force after an internal investigation and were later charged with several felonies after text messages were discovered in which they allegedly plotted to kill the elk several hours before Carter shot it with a shotgun. At the time, the elk was in the front yard of a house, and he said it looked injured and needed to be put down.
Curnow, who called in sick that day, then arrived to haul away the carcass. No reports were filed and police initially told residents alarmed at a police shooting in their ritzy Mapelton Hill neighborhood that no one from the agency was involved.
But a photo of Carter posing over the animal’s carcass, taken by a resident, quickly went viral and the men were soundly condemned, in Boulder and elsewhere.
“Reporters, television broadcasters, columnists, writers, photojournalists, editors, singers and songwriters all took to the streets of Boulder to honor the memory of the fallen Mapleton elk,” Carter’s attorney wrote in the motion, according to the Daily Camera. “Although it is a wild animal, the reporters and Boulder residents have personified and created a reputation for the elk that, in many respects, parallels the reputation of the most highly regarded individuals in the community.”
“Boulder residents have held memorials, candlelight vigils, made T-shirts, signed petitions, and participated in at least one ‘silent walk’ to honor the elk,” he wrote.
The story caused such hysteria in Boulder — known for its ecological and environmental sensitivities — that Police Chief Mark Beckner took the unusual step of releasing a summary of his investigation. That only increased the publicity and served to further alienate the men in the community, Carter’s lawyer argued.
“State actors used local popular media outlets to transform this case into a one-sided story,” Colin wrote.
But District Attorney Stan Garnett is fighting to keep the trial in Boulder.
“This is a Boulder case and should be resolved by a Boulder jury,” Garnett wrote in an objection, according to the Camera. “Boulder County juries are fully capable of deciding this case on the admissible evidence presented at trial and the relevant law.”
Curnow has not filed a similar request, the Camera reported.
Carter and Curnow have pleaded not guilty.
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