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Judge denies change of venue in Deputy Dixon slaying case

Superior Court Judge Jason Deal denied the motion to change the trial venue for four men charged with murder in the death of Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon. 

London Clements, Hector Garcia-Solis, Brayan Omar Cruz and Eric Edgardo Velazquez have all pleaded not guilty.

Deal said the defense had not met the burden of proof to “show that the setting of this trial is inherently prejudicial.”  

“Nothing in this order prevents the court from inquiring if there is actual prejudice to a degree that renders a fair trial impossible at the time a jury is selected,” according to the order signed June 22. 

According to the order’s citation of case law, the defense would have to show that the trial setting “was inherently prejudicial or that the jury selection process showed actual prejudice to a degree that rendered a fair trial impossible.” 

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. 

Attorney Matt Cavedon argued at a June 8 motions hearing that 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 at the hearing. 

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. 

The case law cited in the order said it is “extremely rare” where the pretrial publicity has made the trial setting “inherently prejudicial.” 

Deal wrote that the defense failed to present evidence on how many readers, subscribers, followers and/or commenters are citizens of Hall County. 

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