Jurors from Marion County will hear the case of a Fort Wayne man facing the death penalty for allegedly killing four people – one his unborn child – more than two years ago.
Attorneys for Marcus Dansby, 23, asked to move the case from Allen County, arguing that news coverage and comments on social media make it difficult for their client to receive a fair trial. The coverage and social media posts have biased potential local jurors, they said.
Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull agreed with some of the claims in an order issued Monday, finding “some evidence” of “public hostility and outrage” surrounding the case and pretrial publicity “that is inflammatory and sensational.”
She rejected a request to move the trial, but ordered jurors to be selected from Marion County. Jurors selected there will be taken to Allen County for the trial, which is scheduled to start April 16.
“(Dansby) has presented some evidence that some users that commented on various social media platforms were identified as residents of Allen County and could possibly be in the jury pool,” Gull wrote.
Defense attorney Robert Gevers said Wednesday he is satisfied with Gull's decision.
Dansby is charged with four counts of murder in the Sept. 11, 2016, killings of Traeven Harris, 18, Consuela Arrington, 37, Dajahiona Arrington, 18, and the fetus she was carrying, in a home on Holton Avenue. The unborn child was later determined to be his.
A fifth victim, Trinity Hairston, was shot and stabbed but survived. Dansby is charged with attempted murder in that attack.
Investigators said they found Dansby at the scene, covered in blood and holding a bloody knife. A gun with blood on it was found nearby, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Prosecutors filed paperwork in January 2017 to seek the death penalty. It is the only death penalty case pending in Allen County and the first since that of Simon Rios, who abducted, raped and killed a 10-year-old girl in 2005. Rios was sentenced to life without parole and killed himself after about a year in prison.
Joseph Corcoran was sentenced to death in 1998 for killing four people, including his brother, in a house on Bayer Avenue. He has exhausted his appeals and remains on death row.
Defense attorneys Michelle Kraus and Gevers have been trying since March to convince Gull to move Dansby's trial or allow jurors to be selected from outside Allen County.
Kraus said in a May court hearing that dozens of “potentially prejudicial” articles have been written and published since the alleged crimes. Documents refer to a Journal Gazette story from Christmas Day 2016 that includes details about the killings provided by witnesses.
Comments on Facebook show potential jurors who have called for Dansby to be killed and are unlikely to be swayed on whether he is innocent, his lawyers have said.
“Mr. Dansby is entitled to a fair trial by the State of Indiana, not trial, conviction and sentencing by the individuals in the community via Facebook,” documents filed in June by Kraus and Gevers state.
Prosecutors have countered that news stories are based on documents available to the public and neither the coverage nor the social media posts show sufficient evidence to move the trial.
The order from Gull is among just a handful of documents made public in the case since Allen County Deputy Prosecutors Tom Chaille, Jeffrey Stineburg and Alison Yeager filed a 13-page brief in June opposing the motion for change of venue. Several motions have been filed and Gull has issued orders, but each have been sealed.