State

Sacramento trial for accused cop killer Allen in limbo

The Sacramento trial of accused cop killer Columbus Allen Jr. II is in limbo as a state appeals court weighs a challenge by Allen’s defense attorney against the move to the capital city.

The 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno last week suspended moving Allen’s case from Modesto to Sacramento after attorney John R. Grele of San Francisco filed a petition challenging the trial’s new location.

Grele said he believes San Francisco and Marin counties - his top choices for the change of venue - were not given full consideration.

“We felt that we were unfairly prevented from fully exploring what the proper venue should be,” Grele said Monday.

In his October decision to move the trial to Sacramento, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson 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.

The Administrative Office of the Courts, the state court administrative body, polled several Northern California counties and came up with the list based on available space, personnel and other factors.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Alan Cassidy said Sacramento was the prosecution’s top choice because of its proximity to witnesses and the convenience of transportation.

Allen could face the death penalty if he’s convicted in the February 2006 slaying of California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott.

Allen, 33, 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.

Sacramento County Judge Patrick Marlette was picked to preside over the trial, set to begin Jan. 12.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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