The Austin Sigg trial may or may not end up in Jefferson County.
During the Aug. 29 motions hearing, Judge Stephen Munsinger ruled that he will make his decision whether or not to grant a change of venue to the defense during the jury selection process, which begins on Sept. 20.
“I don’t know if we can seat a fair and impartial jury. I won’t know that until the jurors get here,” Munsinger said. “I want to acknowledge the defense for their efforts in keeping information out of the public domain.”
Munsinger’s decision came after a long testimony from Paul Talmey with Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy Inc. who conducted a survey of potential jurors.
Talmey and a team of trained interviewers conducted 707 phone interviews throughout Colorado, with 303 of them done in Jefferson County, 203 of them done in the metro area and 201 of them done outside of the metro area.
Those surveyed were asked over 20 questions, beginning with screener questions followed by questions regarding the abduction and murder of Jessica Ridgeway and the Sigg case.
Talmey testified that his findings from the survey showed a high use of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, as a means of information gained on the case by those interviewed.
“There’s a difference between getting information through a passive form and an active form and in terms of this case people are activity involved with the case,” Talmey said.
“Whether it’s through email or making comments on Facebook or Twitter, people aren’t just acknowledging the case, they are involved.”
Talmey said according to his findings, those interviewed in Jefferson County had a “very high awareness of the crime” and that the crime “rang a bell with people.”
He said the recognition of the crime from people surveyed was much higher in Jefferson County than it was outside the county. He suggested to the judge to change the venue of the trial.
“I’d say it will be hard to seat an impartial and fair jury in Jefferson County and the metro area,” Talmey said. “There are too many people with too much information.”
Also during the hearing, Munsinger accepted University of Colorado at Boulder Psychologist Dr. Marie Banich as an expert witness for the defense for the upcoming trial. She took the stand during the hearing and discussed her lengthy background and experience in child and adolescent brain development. During the trial she will not be discussing Sigg’s personal brain development nor will she review any reports on Sigg. She will only testify as an expert teaching witness to educate the jury on child and adolescent brain development.
Sigg’s trial is set to begin on Oct. 3 with opening arguments. If convicted, he faces life in prison with a possibility of parole after 40 years. He faces 17 charges, including murder and sexual assault. He is charged with abducting and murdering 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway last October.