Lawyers for a former priest accused of raping and killing a Texas beauty queen in 1960 pushed for a change in venue in court on Wednesday, claiming the case was too infamous to get a fair trial in Hidalgo County.
My SA reports that John Feit, 84, appeared at the Hidalgo County courtroom with his lawyer, O. Renee Flores, who argued that given the notoriety of the case, the defendant wouldn’t have an fair and impartial jury unless a new location was chosen for his upcoming trial.
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“The pretrial publicity has reached that point where (Feit) cannot … reasonably receive a fair and impartial jury in this case.”
Feit was arrested in February 2016 and charged with the murder and rape of Texas beauty queen, Irene Garza, 25, who was found dead in a canal in 1960. Just five days before she was found, Garza had visited Feit, 27 at the time, for confession at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. After years of investigating Garza’s death, it went cold until 2002, when detectives reopened the case after two priests told authorities that Feit confessed to them that he murdered the former school teacher.
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In 2004, despite the priests’ accusations, a grand jury didn’t indict Feit due to lack of evidence. In 2014, however, Ricardo Rodriguez was voted in as the new district attorney (DA) in Hildalgo County, beating out former DA, Renee Guetta. The former DA came under scrutiny for not giving the Garza case enough attention. Rodriguez vowed to help bring Garza’s alleged killer to justice, and by 2016, there was enough evidence gathered to arrest and indict Feit for rape and murder.
According to court documents, Garza died from asphyxiation. She’d also been beaten and raped while unconscious.
Prosecutor Michael J. Garza argued in court on Wednesday against a change of venue. He told the judge he found it insulting that potential jurors are being told they can’t be fair if they had previous knowledge of the case.
“I find it highly, I guess, insulting, that a person can walk into a courtroom … and tell the court its citizens cannot be fair because they have read articles concerning the case.”
State District Judge Luis Singleterry is expected to make a decision regarding a change of venue by next week. Should the request be denied, Feit’s trial will likely start in September.
[Feature Photo: Police File]