Defense attorneys for Brandon K. Thompson, 31, a Tremonton man charged with aggravated murder stemming from an April 16, 2018, incident, argued in court to have Thompson’s upcoming trial moved to another county to avoid jury bias citing high publicity and media coverage, among other issues.
Shannon Demler, Thompson’s attorney, argued before First District Court Judge Brandon Maynard on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in Brigham City, that a change of venue for next month’s trial is the only way to secure a fair trial for his client including finding impartial jurors who haven’t been swayed from media coverage of the case.
The defense stated four points to Maynard, the defendants standing in the community, the size of the community, the nature of the offense and the nature of the publicity of the case.
Demler stated that the media coverage of this case (many of those from the Leader), Demler is “imbedded in the public’s consciousness” and that Thompson will not be able to find a fair trial in the county.
Representing the state, Box Elder County Prosecutor Blair Wardle quickly responded that the last article to feature Thompson’s case appeared in the Leader in August 2018, and that a Dec. 26, 2018, article in the Leader only cited a year review of all news stories with Thompson’s case cited several paragraphs into the story.
“The story recapped the entire year,” Wardle said. “It’s not enough to pull jurors in and expose them unnecessarily.”
“It’s not enough to warrant a change of venue,” Wardle added.
“The publicity is ongoing,” added Demler.
Several other issues were addressed including Thompson’s standing in the community. Demler stated that because of Thompson’s residence and business affiliations, it may be harder to find unbiased jurors but Wardle argued that Thompson had no religious or political affiliations in the community and that just because he’s a resident of Tremonton doesn’t apply.
“He needs to be more than just a citizen,” Wardle argued.
Maynard agreed with the state and Wardle and denied the defense their motion to change the venue of the trial.
Maynard looked at the four points in the argument.
The first point, Maynard said, is that Thompson was not involved in the community serving in any high profile community positions because Thompson is not a local leader or has a religious affiliation.
“He has no unique standing in the community,” Maynard said.
Next, Maynard said that Tremonton, with a population of 8,600 and Box Elder County, with a population of 54,000, does not weigh against the defense argument that the population is simply too small.
The nature of the offense, Maynard said, in comparing Thompson’s case with a Cache County case in 1982, has such stark contrasts to each other that he didn’t feel this reason warrants a change of venue.
The last point Maynard touched upon was the nature of the publicity in this case, adding that only the Leader newspaper has covered this case since last spring and that the coverage was “relatively minimal and straightforward.”
The second motion argued before Maynard was to allow the state to bring the defense’s expert witness’s past to the jury’s attention.
According to Wardle, the defense will be bringing in an expert witness, but Wardle wants to be able to bring up the witness's past, which Wardle said includes behavior that shows “gross incompetence and negligence as a professional.” That behavior resulted in suspension of his license and five years of probation for an incident that occurred 20 years ago.
“This has nothing to do with the case,” Demler said during arguments.
Wardle argued that if the defense can bring up past credentials and education, the state should be able to bring to the jury’s attention any past license suspensions for improper conduct to weight his credibility as an expert in his field.
“He is not testifying in ethics or anything of a sexual matter,” said Demler. Instead, Demler said, the expert witness will be testifying about how a person acts when another person is murdered, including their physical and emotional state.
For this motion Maynard sided with the defense and will not allow the state to bring up the witness's past license suspension and probation. “He’s not here to testify about problems that have arose in his past,” Maynard said.
Thompson’s pretrial hearing will be held on Jan. 28, in Brigham City’s First District Court.
According to court documents Thompson called Box Elder Dispatch at 3:45 a.m. on April 16, 2018, to report a shooting located at 3625 W. 1000 N. in Tremonton. When officers arrived at the scene they found Michael K. Hogenson, 33, deceased with gunshot wounds to the legs.
The probable cause report out of Box Elder County’s First District Court state that Thompson, the caller and the suspect in this case, waited two hours after the alleged shooting to call authorities.
Thompson was booked into Box Elder County Jail on April 16, on charges of aggravated murder, a first degree felony, obstruction of justice, a second degree felony, use of a firearm by a restricted person, a second degree felony and illegal discharge of a firearm, a class B misdemeanor.
In a probable cause report it states that Thompson called dispatch and told police that he shot Hogenson out of self-defense and that Hogenson had threatened his family. It added that Thompson fired the gun as warning shots after Hogenson charged at him.
Authorities are adding that Thompson attempted to hide or conceal evidence regarding the murder, according to the probable cause report.