A magistrate judge decided Monday that a Shoshone woman charged with the fatal death of a Bellevue resident will face a jury trial in Blaine County, where the charges were filed, denying a motion for a change of venue. Also denied was a motion to separate the charges into two separate jury trials.
This was the second motion hearing on the case within two weeks. The first hearing was for a motion for reduction of bond on May 30.
At that hearing, Kaytlyn Ann Graefe, 20, appeared for the first time in court after being charged on Jan. 23 with three misdemeanors: vehicular manslaughter, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. The charges are related to the death of Bellevue resident Georgina Jean Ubence, 37, who died at the scene of an accident near Timmerman Junction on Aug. 19, in which Graefe was the driver of a second vehicle involved.
At the hearing was Graefe’s mother, as well as family and friends of Ubence. Graefe and her mother were repeatedly in tears, while other members of the audience scoffed as the defense presented its arguments. As details of the fatal collision were retold, the sound of crying was heard around the courtroom.
“The court feels very heavily the weight of this case,” Judge Jennifer Haemmerle said.
Graefe’s public defense attorney, Selim Star, had asked that his client’s bond be reduced, arguing that the family did not own any property and had no assets to leverage for the $75,000 bond set at the time of Graefe’s arraignment on Jan. 25.
Star argued that Graefe is not a flight risk because she did not flee between the time the accident occurred on Aug. 19 and when she was arrested on Jan. 23, and that the family could not afford the bond originally set, hindering Graefe from being released from jail simply because she did not have the money to be freed.
In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express shortly after the bond reduction hearing, Star said that in situations when the bond is high but the defendant is poor, the law works against them.
“A rich person is out of jail. A poor person sits in jail. It’s so black and white,” Star said.
In response to Star’s argument, prosecutor Angela Nelson said Graefe’s “character and reputation is not good,” adding that between the time of the accident and the time of the arrest, Graefe had two probation violations in a misdemeanor case from Twin Falls County. According to Nelson, the probation violations were for testing positive for opiates, cocaine and marijuana between September and November.
In conclusion, Nelson said the prosecution and the victim’s family were both against a bond reduction, adding, “I have serious doubts she’ll be able to abide by the law.”
In making her decision, Haemmerle mentioned the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which states that excessive bail shallw not be required, and the Idaho Bail Act and Idaho Criminal Rule 46, which all essentially state that bail is meant to ensure that a defendant returns to appear in court.
Haemmerle added that it is very tempting when emotions and grief are high to view bail as a form of punishment, but that is not what it is intended to do. Haemmerle then agreed to reduce the bail from $75,000 to $30,000, meaning that Graefe’s family would be required to pay $3,000 to a bail bond company for her to be released from jail.
“She’s not going to be able to pay it,” Star told the Mountain Express following the hearing.
According to Star, the family can only afford to pay $500, because of medical bills incurred from the accident. Today, Graefe sits in jail awaiting her trial date of June 26.
At the second motion hearing on Monday, Star argued for the three charges to be separated into two cases, one for the misdemeanor possession and paraphernalia charges and another for the vehicular manslaughter charge, and that the latter case be tried outside of Blaine County due to publicity.
In regard to separating the charges, Star argued that he was concerned the jurors would view the possession and paraphernalia charges and infer that his client was under the influence of a substance when the accident occurred. Nelson argued that the case would be presented to the jury clearly and the defendant would not be unlawfully prejudiced if the three charges were tried together.
Haemmerle denied both motions, saying the jury pool in Blaine County is big enough that finding an unbiased group of seven people would be possible. She ruled that the three charges would be tried together by a jury during a trial on June 26.