Sunday, 14 August 2022

Hughes trial will go to Contra Costa County

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED. 

LAKEPORT – The trial of a San Francisco man held for the deaths of his two friends will be moved to Contra Costa County. {sidebar id=55}


In a hearing that took less than five minutes Tuesday morning, it was decided that 23-year-old Renato Hughes' trial will move to the Bay Area.


Hughes and two friends – Christian Foster and Rashad Williams – allegedly broke into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds on Dec. 7, 2005. There, they are alleged to have attacked and badly beaten the Edmonds family. Edmonds' 17-year-old stepson was seriously hurt and left with permanent physical and brain injuries.


Edmonds reportedly shot Foster and Williams as they ran from the home. However, because Hughes was allegedly taking part in a crime that resulted in a death, he is being charged with his friends' murders.


In November, following the seating of a jury, retired Alameda Superior Court Judge William McKinstry granted defense attorney Stuart Hanlon's motion for a venue change based on concerns over the number of potential jurors who had been dismissed for various reasons.


The speedy Tuesday decision came after District Attorney Jon Hopkins – who at a Jan. 4 hearing objected to Contra Costa because of Bay Area media coverage of the case – said he was willing to see the trial move there.


“I believe my concerns about Contra Costa County could be resolved during jury selection,” said Hopkins.


He noted that the location would be more convenient for witnesses and others involved in the trial.


In addition to Contra Costa, the state Administrative Office of the Courts had proposed San Diego, Los Angeles and Fresno as alternate counties to host the trial.


Hanlon agreed that Contra Costa was the best choice, which he had previously indicated at the Jan. 4 hearing as well.


With both the prosecution and defense agreeing on the location, Judge Arthur Mann ruled that the case would move to Contra Costa County, where the diversity of population and convenience weighed in its favor, Mann added.


Hanlon has repeatedly referred to Lake's smaller racial diversity in his search to have the case moved. His argument was that Hughes, who is black, could not receive a fair trial in an overwhelmingly white county.


It isn't yet certain which judge will hear the case. Mann told Hopkins and Hanlon that McKinstry was not intending to follow the case.


Hopkins told Lake County News in a later interview that, after thinking through the issue and conducting background research, he concluded that the publicity issue could be addressed successfully.


While there is a larger population in Contra Costa there also are more criminal cases that take place there, said Hopkins, so he theorized people aren't as likely to focus on any one case in particular.


Besides media coverage, Hopkins said he also was concerned about Hanlon's “professional demonstrators” who had come to Lake County previously, and who he believed might have more access to the trial if it moved to Contra Costa. That, however, can also be dealt with, said Hopkins.


A call to Hanlon's office Monday to seek response to those comments was not returned.


Hopkins said that his communication with the Administrative Office of the Courts indicated that Contra Costa County could try the Hughes case in late March or early April.


Hanlon reportedly has another case to try in April; Hopkins said Hanlon has indicated he will know more about the timeline for that trial in the next few weeks.


“I'm very hopeful we can start the case at the beginning of April and finish it in May,” said Hopkins.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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