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Matthew Dotson is requesting a change of venue in his murder case.
His attorney, Joseph Lodato of Knoxville, filed the motion in Roane County Criminal Court on Tuesday.
Dotson and his wife, Amanda, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of their 2-year-old son Clifford.
Authorities have said the toddler was starved to death.
Matthew Dotson is out on bond.
Amanda Dotson, who is represented by public defender Walter Johnson, is still in custody.
Lodato alleges potential jurors from Roane County have been tainted by pretrial publicity in the case.
“Roane County is composed of tightly-knit communities and includes many prospective jurors who have read, seen or watched media accounts of the events leading up to the death of Clifford Dotson and the criminal investigation of the defendant afterwards,” the motion said.
Lodato is not just asking for the case to be moved out of Roane County, however. He’s asking that it not be tried anywhere in the Ninth Judicial District, which includes Roane, Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties.
“Defendant has been prejudiced by the exposure of a Roane County jury to the vast amounts of media coverage and public comment already brought on by this case, and his rights will suffer if this cause is tried to a jury from Roane County or the Ninth Judicial District,” the motion said.
The Dotsons were arrested on June 19, 2012. Lodato contends a picture of Matthew Dotson being escorted into the jail along with a booking photo that appeared in the Roane County News contributed to the alleged contamination of the jury pool.
“These pictures of defendant, likely viewed multiple times by the majority, if not entirety, of the jury pool, communicate an association of guilt of defendant, before judicial proceedings had even begun,” the motion said.
Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton also stated in interviews that Matthew Dotson had shown no remorse over the death of his child.
Lodato contends that’s another reason why a change of venue is appropriate.
“The local community is likely to believe the opinions and facts expressed by its own sheriff,” the motion said. “Sheriff Stockton has already conveyed his opinion as to the mental state and guilt of the defendant, factors that a jury, now tainted, must consider before acquitting or convicting defendant.”
Lodato also referenced an article that appeared in the News-Herald of lenoir City about a memorial for Clifford at the Kids First Child Advocacy Center in Loudon County.
District Attorney General Russell Johnson spoke at the service and was quoted in the article.
“General Johnson’s words add credibility and fire to the state’s position to readers of the article,” the motion said.
“Potential jurors who either read the article ... or were interviewed or quoted by the News-Herald, will have understandably sympathized or bonded vicariously with Clifford, pre-existing sentiments that would likely deprive the defendant of a trial by an impartial jury.”
Lodato has also filed motions to suppress evidence and his client’s statements.
The Dotsons lived at 180 Lerchen Road in East Roane County.
According to Lodato, police did not have a warrant when they searched the residence and his client’s vehicle.
“None of the officers on the scene have described any event or exigency that would have prevented them from securing the home and vehicle and applying to the court for a search warrant, which would likely have been granted,” the motion to suppress evidence said.
Lodato said officers seized a car seat, bedding and pajamas from a washing machine and took pictures.
“No written proof has been produced that would document or memorialize any consent that defendant is alleged by investigators to have given which would allow them to legally occupy his home or observe photograph or seize any items of personal property or personal effects,” the motion said.
In the motion to suppress his client’s statements to police, Lodato said Matthew Dotson was not informed of his right to remain silent.
“Even if the defendant did consent to the officers’ interrogation, as it has been claimed by the state, he felt he was under duress in that he was not free to leave his own home without answering the officers’ questions,” the motion said.
Lodato also filed a motion asking that Matthew and Amanda Dotson be tried together.
“Defendant avers that it will be difficult if not impossible to fully try his case without joining co-defendant, as a defendant in this criminal proceeding,” the motion said.
Prosecutors have yet to file responses to Lodato’s motions.