LOGAN — A five-day jury trial has been rescheduled for Douglas L. Birkinbine after a judge denied the 54-year-old’s request to move his alleged burglary trial to a new location.
Birkinbine appeared in 1st District Court Monday afternoon. He’s accused of breaking into several homes in Cache Valley in 2015, and charged with 39 felonies and 13 misdemeanors.
Public defender Mike McGinnis argued for the change, saying that because the alleged burglaries occurred in small communities and many people know the supposed victims, it would be difficult to find an unbiased jury. He also said the court should take into consideration the amount of news media coverage the case has generated.
As part of his argument, McGinnis cited the 1989 case where the Utah Supreme Court ruled to move the baby homicide trial for Steven Ray James out of Logan.
State attorney Barbara Lachmar said the James case was much different and involved an infant that was allegedly abducted from in front of a music store and later found dead in the Benson Marina. She acknowledged the media had been following the Birkinbine case, but said the coverage wasn’t near the same level of the James case. She told the court, she didn’t see an appropriate reason to move the trial.
Judge Brian Cannell agreed with the state saying Birkinbine’s case was distinguishable from the James case. He told the attorneys that he would allow for the jury pool to be increased to 100 people, so they can have enough candidates to ensure an unbiased jury.
Judge Cannell set a trial date for July 17-21, even as the defendant said he may wish to represent himself.
Birkinbine and 52-year-old Victoria Asta are suspected of robbing a home in Paradise at gun point and later leading deputies on a high speed chase that ended in Logan on November 17, 2015. The two are believed to have broken into more than eight residences.
Asta already pleaded guilty for her role in the robberies, and was sentenced to two concurrent terms of one-to-fifteen years in prison.
Birkinbine remains in the Cache County Jail without bail.
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