Man accused of trial murder seeks change of venue

James Hughes

James Hughes of Zionsville is seeking a change of venue for his murder trial.

Hughes, 23, is accused of murdering Samuel Bennett, also of Zionsville. Bennett's body was found in a wooded area near Zionsville Town Hall and the Big Four Rail Trail early on April 28. Gunshots had been reported in the area earlier that morning.

Zionsville police arrested Hughes, 23, on a warrant for murder about a week later. He is being held without bond in the Boone County Jail.

An autopsy revealed that Bennett was shot two times, according to information provided by the Zionsville Police Department.

ZPD said police served 12 search warrants and collected evidence at the scene, which led to probable cause that Hughes had committed the murder.

According to court records, Hughes became a suspect when David Meschino Jr., 28, of Zionsville, who was arrested after admitting he bought guns for Hughes. Police searched Hughes’ home and found documents related to a gun Meschino bough. Meschino's trial, on a charge of providing a firearm to an ineligible person, is set to be heard at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20 in Boone County Superior 1, with Judge Matt Kincaid presiding.

A motion for a change of venue entered by Hughes' counsel Jeff Cardella, argues that Hughes would be unable to receive a fair trail in Boone County because of public hostility against the defendant, public outrage over the alleged offense, prejudicial news reporting or editorializing which castigates the defendant and that discusses an alleged confession and/or prior criminal conduct, and bias or prejudice against the defendant in Boone County.

The motion states: "There have been several dozen news articles concerning this case. These news articles have asserted that Hughes has numerous arrests for minor crimes, discussed Hughes' criminal history, and discussed an alleged confession. Some of this reporting is factually false. Some of this reporting contains inadmissible prior bad acts. Some of this reporting involves multiple levels of hearsay and may be inadmissible hearsay ... ."

The state objected to the change of venue.

The objection states: "The defense motion does not present any substantive evidence for the court to make such a determination at this time."

Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood, in the objection, stated that state statute requires the court to hold a hearing on a change of venue request, and and for the court to set a date for the change of venue hearing.

Hughes' motion for a change of venue will have a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 8 in Boone County Circuit Court, with Judge Lori Schein presiding.

Currently, a jury trial is set for December.

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