Family says Lawrence, Saldana can't get fair trial in Saginaw - WNEM TV 5

Family says Lawrence, Saldana can't get fair trial in Saginaw

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

The family of Michael Lawrence and Rico Saldana believe it's impossible to get a fair trial in connection to the drive-by shooting death of 6-year-old Layla Jones because of all the attention the case has gotten.

"It just can't happen," said Dammes Patillo, a close cousin of Michael Lawrence.

Tuesday, Patillo watched as Judge Darnell Jackson asked a room full of potential jurors if they had any knowledge about the case.

"Nearly everyone raised their d*** hands," Patillo explained.

Lawrence's attorney, William White, filed a motion to move the trial to another venue because of the media coverage the case has gotten. White stated that it was "impossible" for his client to get a fair trial.

Jackson is no stranger to high-profile cases. He also presided over the murder trial of Ken Bluew. 

Bluew, a former Buena Vista police officer, was convicted in December 2012 in the killing of his pregnant girlfriend, Jennifer Webb. 

"I really do want justice for that little girl," said Ninfa Saldana, the mother of defendant Rico Saldana."I ask people to let this play out in court first."

Although testimony in this case has not begun, Ninfa Saldana says she regularly sees posts on Facebook about her son being labeled as "guilty."

"They have already sentenced him on social media," Ninfa Saldana explained.

Patillo, who is also married to Rico Saldana's sister, agrees that the overall public opinion involving Lawrence and Saldana is that they are guilty.

Patillo said that may taint a potential juror from the area.

"They have to move this," Patillo said.

Because of the high number of jurors familiar with the case, each individual person will be interviewed by the defense, prosecutors and the judge to make sure potential jurors do not already presume innocence or guilt.

"The system says innocent until proven guilty, I think that is hard to accomplish when so many people have made up their minds," Patillo said.

A third defendant in this case, Levonne Greer, was tried and convicted on similar charges in July 2013.

Greer was sentenced to life in prison.

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