Chesapeake judge denies motion to move security guard’s murder trial

Johnathan Cromwell appears in court on April 13, 2017, before a judge accepted a motion for his attorneys to be withdrawn from the case. (WAVY Photo)

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A motion to move the trial for a security guard accused of murder was denied Thursday morning in Chesapeake.

Police charged Johnathan Cromwell with murder for shooting Jiansheng Chen in the River Walk community in January of 2017.

Cromwell’s attorneys say he shot Chen in self-defense because he thought Chen would run him over with his van.

Related: Security guard in deadly shooting asked about accuracy

Prosecutors have argued that Cromwell’s actions amounted to murder. Chen’s family says he was playing Pokemon Go when he was shot.

Sacks filed a motion to move the trial out of Chesapeake, arguing people might already have an opinion about the case.

“It’s a highly discussed case. A lot of people have an opinion about it in Chesapeake. It wouldn’t surprise me if we have a problem picking a jury,” Sacks said.

That’s why Sacks also presented several motions involving jury selection.

The judge denied those requests but Sacks is hopeful that there can be a fair trial.

“I think the judge knows it’s a case that has to be carefully handled and the jury selection process, however it unfolds, will hopefully be thorough,” he said.

Supporters of Chen also are hoping for a fair trial.

“I think based on what the judge said and what was said in the court, we don’t have any question,” said Harry Zhang, who is the family’s spokesperson.

Zhang says Chen’s death has been heartbreaking for his community and they miss him.

“We try to be patient. We are persistent. Sooner or later, we believe, we trust the justice will come,” he said.

Sacks also requested that those at the trial to not be allowed to have items like buttons, shirts, or any open displays that would potentially sway the jurors.

The judge did not deny this but it’s under consideration and if there were any disruptions during the trial, deputies would resolve the issues like they always have.

Sacks also requested to have Cromwell visit the scene of the crime with him to go over questions he has.

The judge also did not deny this but would only allow it if Sacks goes back over all the video and photo evidence and still has questions that do not make sense and can only be answered by being at the scene.

Lastly, Sacks asked for another bond hearing for Cromwell.

The judge also denied that request.

10 On Your Side spoke with Cromwell’s family outside of the court room off camera.

They told us that request was a shot in the dark and is like winning the lottery with a one-in-a-million chance for getting bond.

Sacks says Cromwell, who’s been in jail since he was charged last year, is a strong young man with a lot of faith and a family that stands behind him.

“He wishes he was at liberty, not in jail. He’s taken it maturely because he believes in his innocence and he’s peaceful and calm enough to believe in his day in court where he and I believe he will be vindicated,” he said.

There will be another motions hearing on May 8 and the trial is expected to begin on June 25.