Circuit Judge Brian Howell granted a change of venue during a status hearing in Russell’s case today.
Russell, 25, is charged with shooting the 27-year-old Sollohub during a foot chase in August 2011. Sollohub died a short time later in a Birmingham hospital.
Howell said a venue change would be an “appropriate decision to make” based on the results of a survey of Calhoun County residents by Natalie Davis, a jury consultant and political science professor at Birmingham-Southern College. The survey found that 70 percent of those interviewed had knowledge of important facts in the case from following news coverage, District Attorney Brian McVeigh said during the hearing.
Attempts to reach Davis on Friday were unsuccessful.
The survey itself was not released today, but John Robbins, Russell’s court-appointed attorney, said it should be available in a court file next week. Robbins said he did not want to discuss the survey until it had been filed.
McVeigh told the court he did not contest the survey’s findings and agreed the venue should be changed in order to give Russell a fair trial.
Robbins said after the hearing that the trial will be moved to a county with “a similar population, both in numbers and racial make-up.”
The county chosen will also need to have a courthouse large enough for a trial of this nature, Robbins said.
Robbins said a decision last week by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in a Mobile County case may have assisted in the venue change.
“A father killed several of his children and one of the issues that got the case reversed was failure to move the case out of Mobile County,” Robbins said. “I think the smart thing to do, from most standpoints, is to move it.”
The attorneys also discussed a video statement Russell made to police the day of the shooting. Howell said he would review the hour-long video in private before the trial begins.
Robbins said he wanted the judge “to familiarize himself with what is said and if anything that’s on there is not really admissible in the court at trial we certainly don’t want it to be played in public, at this point.”
Robbins said the next status review in Russell’s case is set for April 12. The trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in September.
Russell, who was present at today’s hearing, remains in custody at the Etowah County Jail with no bond set.
Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.