Police officers seek change of venue in HPD beating case

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 23 at 10:53 AM

HOUSTON -- Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, and activist Quannel X were each called as witnesses Monday in Harris County Criminal Court. 

And all three agreed that a now infamous surveillance video should not keep a trial from happening here in Harris County.

In March 2010, HPD officers were captured on surveillance cameras arresting Chad Holley, 15, a burglary suspect.  After Holley jumped over the hood of a police car, he fell to the ground and put his hands behind his head.  Several officers pounced on Holley and proceeded to kick and hit him both before and after he was handcuffed.

Raad Hassan, Andrew Blomberg, Drew Ryser and Phil Bryan, are charged with official oppression in connection with the arrest.  Hassan and Bryan are also charged with violating the civil rights of a prisoner.

In the first day of an expected two-day hearing, attorneys for the officers presented their case to Harris County Judge Ruben Guerrero asking that their clients be given a change of venue.  Because the surveillance video of Holley’s arrest has been aired by every major news outlet in Houston, and widely disseminated on the Internet, they said their clients cannot find an impartial jury in Harris County.

"You've seen the video. When you look at it you just immediately conclude that they were wrong,” said Defense Attorney Dick DeGuerin.  “But there's a lot of explanations that really fit,” he said, referring to police protocol and procedure that he planned to discuss at trial.

“The problem is, when you make up your mind, you don't unmake it. And that's what I'm concerned about," he said.

DeGuerin asked both Parker and McClelland on the witness stand about their public comments after the arrest in 2010.  Both were highly critical of the officers’ actions.  But both McClelland and Parker testified that they believe the officers should be put on trial in Harris County.

"I believe they can get a fair and impartial trial here,” said McClelland who said his officers need to be held accountable in the community in which they work.

In his turn on the witness stand, activist Quannel X agreed with both McClelland and Parker.

Testimony in the change of venue hearing is expected to continue on Tuesday.

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