On July 23, 2021, Circuit Judge Rob Ratton heard arguments concerning a Change of Venue Motion filed by the defense team of Quake Lewellyn. Lewellyn is charged with the Murder and Rape of Sydney Sutherland on August 19, 2020.
Lewellynâ€™s defense team presented news articles, tv reports, as well as photos of signs and billboards in an effort to convince the Court that the case should be heard outside of Jackson County because of pretrial publicity and unfair prejudice in the county. Several photos of #JusticeForSydney signs in peopleâ€™s yards and in businesses were submitted by the defense.
Three witnesses testified for the defense that based on the people they spoke to they did not believe Lewellyn could receive a fair trial in Jackson County. The prosecution team responded by pointing out that the witnesses testified to sentiment they had heard in only 3 of Jackson Countyâ€™s 14 townships. Noting that there is a presumption that the case should be heard in Jackson County, the State argued that Jackson County, the Sutherland family, and even Quake Lewellyn himself was entitled to a trial in Jackson County. As to the signs, the State asked, â€œwhen did asking for justice become unfair?â€
The prosecution rested with â€œQuake Lewellyn facing justice IS justice for Sydney.â€ Judge Rob Ratton advised the attorneys he would review the evidence and arguments put forth and asked that legal briefs be submitted within 10 days.
The Sutherland Family was present for the hearing, as they have been for every hearing. They were understandably emotional as they watched the news coverage and media stories presented by the defense. At one point, Maggie Sutherland, Sydneyâ€™s mother was visibly upset, family and friends were close at hand, with their support and seemed to hold her just a little tighter.
While not available for interview, lead prosecutor John Pettie commented on Facebook â€œToday, we took one of the many steps it will take to bring Quake Lewellyn to justice. It will be a long road ahead, but we fully intend to stay the course for as long as it takes to achieve justice for Sydney. The family of Sydney Sutherland continues to exhibit a strength of character that honors her memory. My prayers remain with them.â€
The case against Lewellyn is set for its next hearing date on October 4, 2021. No trial date has been set.