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Avila Pleads Not Guilty to Runnion Kidnap, Murder

Aired August 9, 2002 - 12:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: You saw just moments ago before the break, a handcuffed 27-year-old Alejandro Avila being escorted by authorities. Earlier today, in Santa Ana, California, he pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murder of little Samantha Runnion.
Our Charles Feldman has been keeping close tabs on this case, and he joins us now with the latest developments.

A not guilty plea from the accused.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and in fact, it is of course more to this story. There was a big showing by the district attorney himself, who came into court because he wanted to move this case to a preliminary hearing within the next 10 days. But there was a victory of sorts for the defense. The defense got that put off, so the next court date will be September 16, and that will be when a preliminary hearing date will first be set. So it will be quite sometime before we get to that stage of this proceeding.

Most important, though, is that the public defender for Alejandro Avila told me moments ago, that it looks pretty likely that she will look for a change of venue when this goes to trial. So she is thinking very much along the lines of not having this case, or at least trying to not have this case, heard within our Orange County because of all of the pretrial publicity.

So that's the battle, the legal battle, that's going to be happening in the weeks and months ahead -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: It seems like that was going to be pretty predictable. How could they possibly -- how could the defense attorney possibly want to have that trial held in a community that was so devastated and so personally affected by this case.

FELDMAN: Yes, and the fact, as I mentioned, that, you know, it is very unusual for the district attorney himself or herself to ever come into court and argue any kind of case or position, and the mere fact that the Orange County DA chose to come to this arraignment hearing this morning actually feeds in, to a degree, into the defense argument that this case is somewhat different than the average case that's tried in the courtrooms here, and therefore, it deserves to be moved, perhaps, elsewhere.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much. Charles Feldman from Santa Ana, thank you for that update now.

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