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Attorneys argue for change of venue in Deputy Dixon slaying trial

Superior Court Judge Jason Deal heard arguments Monday, June 8, 2020, for and against changing the trial venue in the case of Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon’s death.

The motion was one of dozens submitted in the case by attorneys representing Hector Garcia-Solis. Garcia-Solis was charged with murder along with Brayan Omar Cruz, London Alexander Clements and Eric Edgardo Velazquez regarding the July 8, 2019, death.

All four men have pleaded not guilty.

Dixon, 28, died July 8, 2019, after pursuing four suspects in an allegedly stolen vehicle on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. 

Dixon and another deputy reached the suspects on Highland Avenue. Dixon was shot one time in an exchange of gunfire, according to the GBI.

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Hall County Sheriff's Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon. - photo by Hall County Sheriff's Office

The Monday hearing was held at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center, where participants and attendees were separated 6 feet apart and wore masks.

Attorney Matt Cavedon argued the amount of pre-trial publicity and county-wide knowledge of the case would affect Garcia-Solis’ chance at a fair trial.

“Hall County is a tight-knit community,” Cavedon said.

Cavedon submitted a stack of local news reports to the court and called on a pair of public defender’s office employees to testify. One investigator said he had been asked to look into pre-trial publicity of the case and made screenshots of stories posted on social media.

The second witness described public remembrances and items in reference to Dixon’s death, such as a sign hanging over the midtown pedestrian bridge, a Christmas tree decoration at the Hall County Magistrate Court and decals on county vehicles.

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The bridge across Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville is lit in blue lights Tuesday, July 9, 2019, night in honor of fallen Hall County Deputy Nicolas Dixon. - photo by Austin Steele

In a motion filed by attorney David Hoffer, the attorneys argue “actual prejudice” will be seen during the jury selection.

“During jury selection, the defendant anticipates that the vast majority of jurors will know facts about this case and will be familiar with the statements of law enforcement officials, family members of the decedent, as well as other information that will not be admissible at trial,” according to the Jan. 15 motion.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance objected to the motion, arguing that the defense had not met its burden to change the venue. When cross-examining one investigator, she questioned whether comments made on social media were from legitimate accounts. 

Deal did not rule at the Monday hearing on the motion, opting to read the brief submitted.