Prosecutors oppose request to use out-of-county jurors in murder case

February 14, 2019

Prosecutors are challenging a request by a Fort Wayne man charged with killing a toddler in 2017 to have his case heard by jurors from outside Allen County.

Mitchell Vanryn, 28, is charged with murder, aggravated battery and domestic battery in the death of 2-year-old Malakai Garrett. He argues in court documents “prejudicial news-reporting or editorializing,” “speculative opinions as to the personality and character of the accused” and records from the state Department of Child Services that include allegations he abused the boy make it impossible for him to receive a fair trail with local jurors.

Defendants who believe bias or prejudice exists among potential jurors can ask a judge to move their trial from the county where the alleged crime occurred or to have jurors brought in from somewhere else.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards and deputy prosecutor Patricia Pikel say Vanryn has not proved that’s the case.

″(He) has identified no specific prejudicial publicity of any kind in any medium of communication,” their response to Vanryn’s motion for change of venue states. “If not prejudicial, pretrial publicity is not a basis for a change of venue.”

Police and doctors said the boy was abused. Court testimony from another child who lived with Malakai and DCS records also referenced abuse.

Malakai died Nov. 29, and he had injuries to internal organs -- wounds consistent with strikes from a closed fist, according to a probable cause affidavit.