A Sacramento judge will preside over the trial of accused cop killer Columbus Allen Jr. II, which has been moved to the capital city from Modesto.
Judge Patrick Marlette's assignment over the January trial was announced Thursday. Allen is accused of murdering California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott during a traffic stop on Highway 99 near Salida in February 2006.
Marlette, 57, was appointed in 1997 as a Municipal Court judge and now sits as a Sacramento County Superior Court judge.
In March, he sided with Gov. Schwarzenegger in a high-profile case over whether the governor could furlough 15,000 state employees working for officials elected to independent constitutional offices such as attorney general, treasurer and controller.
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Marlette will take over for Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson, who said in court he could not preside over the trial in Sacramento for personal reasons.
Johnson granted the change of venue in August and chose Sacramento for the trial location last week.
He said Sacramento was the most convenient of the three counties on a final list of trial locations that included Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.
Johnson's decision was the first change of venue granted from Modesto since Scott Peterson was tried in the slaying of his wife, Laci, in 2004.
Allen, 33, could face the death penalty if he's convicted in the slaying of Scott.
Allen, of Stockton, is charged with shooting and killing Scott about 4:40 a.m. Feb. 17, 2006. The slain officer was found at the edge of northbound Highway 99, just south of Hammett Road near Salida, holding registration papers for a Nissan Maxima registered to Allen's wife.
His trial is set for Jan. 12.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.