WOBURN - A lawyer for Neil Entwistle argued yesterday that the relentless media coverage of the killing of his wife and infant daughter has left only one place in Massachusetts where his client can get a fair trial.
"Edgartown on the island of Martha's Vineyard," lawyer Elliot Weinstein suggested at a hearing in the bland suburban office park that is the temporary home of Middlesex Superior Court. "The media has not saturated that community in the way I believe it has saturated Eastern Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts."
Judge Diane Kottmyer quickly dashed any dreams that lawyers and court employees may have had about spending June on the quaint island. Kottmyer rejected the request for a change of venue and another motion arguing that the charges against Entwistle, 29, should be dropped altogether because of the intense media coverage.
Jury selection is slated to begin Monday in the sensational trial that has already drawn a drove of tabloid and television reporters, including a contingent from the United Kingdom. Entwistle is accused of killing his wife, Rachel, 27, and his 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose, who were found shot to death lying in bed at their Hopkinton home in January 2006. He flew to England around the time of their deaths and was extradited after his arrest there in February 2006.
As lawyers argued a flurry of procedural motions yesterday and haggled over jury selection, the prosecution's strategy began to emerge. They will try to depict Entwistle as a despondent, broke, sex-obsessed man unsatisfied with his marriage. He spent the days before the crime doing computer searches about how to "kill with a knife" and "quick suicide methods," according to documents filed by the Middlesex district attorney's office.
A forensic analysis of Entwistle's computer found that he spent time on a pornographic website and appeared to be looking for local escorts, according to the documents. When he was arrested in England, Entwistle was carrying a page torn from a local tabloid containing hundreds of ads for "escorts and sexual services" and a note indicating he was trying to make contact with a former girlfriend, according to the documents.
Prosecutor Michael Fabbri argued yesterday that evidence from Entwistle's computer should be presented to the jury to show "what was going on in the mind of the defendant at or around the time of the crime."
Weinstein countered that the sexually charged details were immaterial and could unfairly prejudice the jury. "The evidence in this case will show that there was nothing but a loving relationship between Neil and Rachel Entwistle," Weinstein said.
The judge took both arguments under advisement and said she needed to research more case law before determining what will be allowed at trial. Kottmyer also rejected a request by prosecutors to use a mannequin to illustrate the injuries suffered by Lillian Rose. She did not rule on several other motions, including a request to take the jury to visit the crime scene in Hopkinton and the home of Rachel's Entwistle's parents in Carver.
The main argument by the defense revolved around media coverage of the case. In the first two months after the deaths, the Boston Herald published 73 stories, The Boston Globe printed 48, and the MetroWest Daily News ran at least 27, according to a motion filed by the defense.
"The proceedings tending to the case have consumed the interest of all media locally, nationally, and internationally," Weinstein said, adding that the name "Neil Entwistle" recently generated 165,000 hits in an Internet search engine. "There has not been one decent report that concludes anything other than that Neil Entwistle committed these brutal murders."