CAMBRIDGE — The Ayer twins charged in connection with the death of a 19-year-old man cannot receive a fair trial if their case remains in Middlesex County, one of the suspects’ attorneys said.
The case has received “an enormous amount of publicity from the very beginning ” said Boston attorney Stephanie Page, who represents Peter McGuane.
Superior Court Judge Diane Kottmyer said she will consider the motion, filed jointly by Page and Daniel McGuane’s attorney, Ed Ryan, of Fitchburg.
The 23-year-old suspects each face a charge of manslaughter in connection with the 2005 death of Kelly Proctor. Their trial is scheduled to start June 1.
They had faced a murder charge until earlier this month when the Middlesex district attorney’s office, citing new evidence, reduced it to manslaughter.
The twins appeared in court wearing blue dress shirts and black slacks, with their hands cuffed in front of them.
They followed the hearing as Page told Kottmyer how they have been characterized as “evil” in some newspaper reports.
“The McGuanes have been portrayed in highly inflammatory ways,” Page said during a May 23 hearing in Middlesex Superior Court.
Page held up clippings from different newspapers to Kottmyer, describing how they used large headlines and pictures to paint a negative picture of the McGuanes.
The media has repeatedly portrayed race as an issue in the killing, said Page, which has further poisoned the jury pool. The McGuanes are white and Proctor was black.
Radio shows have also heavily discussed the case, said Page.
When the district attorney’s office reduced the twins’ charges, she said, news reports “turned it into something nefarious.”
Page said she’s reluctant to even pursue a change-of-venue motion because of the additional press coverage the hearing will garner.
About a half-dozen supporters of the suspects came to the hearing. They declined to comment.
No one from Proctor’s family attended the hearing.
The press has already decided “that these two young men are guilty, and they are guilty of murder,” said Ryan.
There will be pressure on jurors from Middlesex County to not go against opinion repeatedly expressed in newspapers’ editorial pages, said Ryan.
“When it comes to a decision in the jury room, they’re afraid to make it,” he said.
The Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in previous cases that a large amount of pretrial publicity, even if it favors one side or the other, doesn’t require a change of venue, said Assistant District Attorney Marguerite Grant.
“It’s entirely possible when the court begins jury selection — there might arise then a reason to change venue,” said Grant.
A decision shouldn’t be made until the problem arises, she said.