A Braymer, Missouri, man who is also facing capital murder charges wants his stealing trial moved from Caldwell County.

Garland Nelson is facing two counts of capital murder alongside a stealing charge for allegedly orchestrating the theft of a tractor-trailer while he was detained on the murder charges.

If a change of venue is granted, Nelson’s stealing case would be transferred from Caldwell County for a second time. Last time, the Missouri Supreme Court assigned the case to Johnson County Judge Michael Wagner, the judge also handling Nelson’s capital murder trial.

The capital murder trial also was moved from Caldwell County to Johnson County because of pretrial publicity.

Nelson is seeking a change of judge.

Under Missouri Supreme Court rules, a judge must transfer the case to another judge if the request is filed within 10 days of a defendant’s arraignment. Nelson’s request for a new judge was filed the same day he was arraigned last Tuesday. Nelson’s attorney asked for the Caldwell County judge to refer the case to the Missouri Supreme Court for reassignment.

Missouri Supreme Court rules state a change of venue “shall be ordered” in a county with fewer than 75,000 inhabitants. Because Caldwell County has under 10,000 residents, according to the 2020 Census, the request is likely to be granted.

A jury from another county could be brought to Caldwell County under the rule, but such a move would face logistical challenges like lodging and feeding jurors. The last judge handling Nelson’s stealing case estimated a trial on that case would take two or three days.

Nelson’s first stealing trial was canceled abruptly after a key prosecution witness contracted COVID-19 and couldn’t appear. The Johnson County judge declined to grant the state a continuance, so the charge was dismissed and re-filed in Caldwell County, resulting in the current motions for a change of judge and venue.

Matt Hoffmann is a our lead investigative reporter. He can be reached at matt.hoffmann@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NpNowHoffmann.

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