Change Of Venue Denied In Camacho Case

Judge Rules Against Defense

Lawyers for a four-time ex-convict accused of fatally shooting an Oceanside police officer two years ago lost a bid Friday to get the case moved outside of San Diego County.

Judge Joan Weber also rejected a motion to void a potential death penalty sentence if 30-year-old Adrian Camacho is convicted.

The defendant, a Mexican national in the United States illegally, is charged with gunning down Officer Tony Zeppetella during a traffic stop in a credit union parking lot on June 13, 2003.

The defense based its change of venue motion on a survey that showed 76 percent of North County residents were aware of Zeppetella's death.

The telephone poll, taken in January 2004, found that more than half of those who knew about the case believed Camacho was guilty.

"The court does find that survey is quite old," the judge said.

The North County Judicial District is "quite large," so a half-million people have yet to make up their mind, she said, while noting that media coverage "has significantly tapered off" since the shooting.

However, if it became apparent during jury selection that potential jurors were "infected" by publicity, she would reconsider the ruling, the judge said.

A jury pool is scheduled to be brought to the courthouse on Sept. 15.

The defense had sought to block a death penalty case by contending the defendant was given late and inadequate notification that he had a right to contact the Mexican consulate after his arrest.

In ruling against the defense motion, the judge ruled that Camacho has had the opportunity to use the services of the Mexican consulate, but had only rarely done so.

The defense argued the Oceanside Police Department violated a treaty signed by the United States, Mexico and many other countries that calls for arrested foreigners to be informed "without delay" that consular services were available.

However, various courts disagreed with the meaning of "without delay," the judge said.

A Vista jail booking clerk testified Monday that she offered to call the consulate for Camacho eight hours after his arrest, but the defendant didn't want her to.

This was not a case in which a defendant had been sentenced to death and only after conviction realized he could have had consular assistance, the judge said.

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