A Fort Wayne man facing the death penalty in the grisly killings of four people including his unborn child can't be guaranteed a fair trial in Allen County, his lawyers said Friday.
A request to bring in jurors from another county to hear the case cites news coverage, “public outrage” about the alleged crime and “public hostility” aimed at Marcus Dansby, who faces four murder charges, a charge of attempted murder and a firearms enhancement.
Defense attorneys Michelle Kraus and Robert Gevers said in a hearing Friday in Allen Superior Court news coverage of the case and comments on social media prompted the change of venue request. Many prospective jurors already are convinced Dansby, 22, is guilty, they said.
Kraus said dozens of “potentially prejudicial” articles have been published about the case since the Sept. 11, 2016, killings on Holton Avenue. Court documents filed in March reference a story that ran on Christmas Day 2016 in The Journal Gazette that includes interviews with witnesses. The focus Friday was on social media comments, however.
For nearly an hour, a witness hired by Dansby's lawyers examined coverage by reporters and on social media, read Facebook comments attached to news stories about Dansby.
“He doesn't care about other lives, so I don't care about his,” one comment said.
“Hang him,” said another.
Dansby shot Dajahiona Arrington, 18, in the head, and the fetus she had been carrying for 8 months did not survive, according to court documents. Traeven Harris, 18, was also shot to death, documents say, and Consuela Arrington, 37, was shot and stabbed.
A fifth victim, Trinity Hairston, was shot and stabbed but survived.
Police found Dansby at the scene, covered in blood and holding a bloody knife, investigators said. A gun with blood on it was found nearby, a probable cause affidavit states.
Prosecutors filed paperwork in January 2017 to seek the death penalty.
Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said some of the Facebook comments are not mean-spirited and are “fair-minded and balanced.” Also, he said, it is not clear those who commented online are residents of Allen County who could be asked to decide Dansby's fate.
“It is not difficult to create a fake Facebook profile,” Chaille said.
Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull asked attorneys for Dansby and prosecutors to submit written arguments on the change of venue next month. She did not rule on the request Friday.