Judge denies change of venue for Warwick murder trial
WILLMAR — A judge has denied a defense request to move the trial for a teen accused of murdering his grandmother.
District Judge David Mennis ruled Thursday that Robert “Robbie” Warwick’s attorney had not shown a reasonable likelihood that a fair trial could not be had in Kandiyohi County.
Warwick, 18, of Willmar, is scheduled to stand trial on first-degree murder charges starting on July 21 for the July 2013 killing of his grandmother, Lila Warwick, 79, of Willmar.
His attorney, Daniel Mohs, sought the change of venue because of significant pretrial publicity in the case, specifically news coverage by the West Central Tribune of Willmar.
Robbie Warwick was one of three people charged in the case. Warwick’s co-defendant, Brok Junkermeier, 19, was sentenced April 9 to life in prison without parole. Junkermeier changed his plea to guilty of first-degree premeditated murder on the 10th day of his jury trial in Kandiyohi County District Court. During his plea hearing, Junkermeier admitted he stabbed and strangled Lila Warwick.
The third defendant in the case, Devon Jenkins, 16, of Willmar, pleaded guilty in December to aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
The judge also ruled Thursday that both the defense and the prosecution will have additional peremptory challenges — the ability to dismiss potential jurors without giving a reason — during the jury selection process.
Mennis noted in the memorandum attached to the order that the court will use juror questionnaires to be reviewed in advance of the trial and will conduct individual juror questioning during jury selection.
The judge also wrote in the memo that the newspaper’s use of the word “mastermind” to describe Warwick’s role in the case came from the initial juvenile complaint filed against him and that the vast majority of potentially prejudicial statements in the news articles came from public documents or from the court hearings of Warwick’s co-defendants.
Warwick is being prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office, with Matthew Frank and Robert Plesha, assistant attorneys general, handling the case. The same prosecutors worked on Junkermeier’s case.