AZTEC — The murder trial for John Mayes will remain in San Juan County.

District Judge William Birdsall denied a motion by Mayes' attorneys to move the trial to McKinley County.

"I think that there are other ways to assure, and I intend to assure, Mr. Mayes obtains a fair trial," Birdsall said. "In doing that I do not think we have to move the trial."

Jeff Buckels, one of Mayes' attorneys, said a San Juan County jury would be biased because of the intense media coverage that followed the death of Dr. James Nordstrom and Mayes' arrest.

Nordstrom was killed June 9, 2011, in his home. Mayes was arrested the following afternoon driving the doctor's car.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office said Mayes, the 18-year-old son of Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes, beat Nordstrom to death with a pool cue.

"I think the coverage of this case in the newspaper including (The Daily Times) has been firmly biased against our client and inflammatory," Buckels said. "I'm also concerned there is a pattern of mixing Rob Mayes into this. The case has picked up a political charge in that way and I don't know what to do about it."

Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said he's prosecuted high-profile cases that were tried locally and pretrial publicity doesn't guarantee a trial will be unfair.

He cited a recent high-profile trial that was tried locally and ended in favor of the defendant.


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"If I say State v. Hatch,' not too many people in this room know what I'm talking about," Capshaw said. "If I say Nazi-branding case, that was huge news locally throughout the time it was pending."

William Hatch, one of the three men who faced charges for branding swastikas and writing racial slurs on a mentally disabled man, was found not guilty in May 2011 of three of four felonies charged against him.

The case received a considerable amount of local and national news coverage prior to trial.

"It was a tough day in court for the state," Capshaw said of the Hatch trial. "A local jury ... found him not guilty of everything but the least of the charges he was facing."

Trials of national interest, from O.J. Simpson to Jerry Sandusky, have been tried in the counties where the crimes occurred, Capshaw said.

"I don't believe publicity establishes prejudice," he said.

Buckels said the defense will take advantage of other strategies to give Mayes a fair trial. Sending written questionnaires to potential jurors about their knowledge of the case and a lengthy jury selection process are ways to vet biased jurors.

"Getting a jury that's fair will be a hard day's work," Buckels said.

A trial date has not been set. During Tuesday's hearing the lawyers said the trial likely won't be scheduled until February or March of next year.

Mayes was 17 years old at the time of his arrest and has since turned 18. He was transferred to San Juan County Adult Detention Center and is in general population.

He was quiet, calm and didn't speak during Tuesday's hearing.

"Throughout the period since he was arrested (John Mayes) has unflinchingly faced up to his situation," Buckels said.