NEWTON, NC (WBTV) – Calling the area "Infected with pre-trial prejudice," Attorney Scott Baker filed a motion in Superior Court in Catawba County Tuesday asking that the cases of his client Elisa Baker be moved elsewhere for trial.
The Change of Venue motion had been expected for months after Reilly told a judge during a prior hearing that he thought Baker could not get a fair trial in Catawba County.
In the motion, Reilly names local newspapers and television stations as running hundreds of stories on the Zahra Baker case.
He also said negative publicity from a national TV program has also affected how people feel in the area.
A Google search of Elisa Baker's name, he said in the motion, "reveals about 9,540,000 results." Reilly believes finding an impartial jury in Catawba County would be difficult, at best.
WBTV talked with several people outside the courthouse in Newton and every one of them said they had heard about the Zahra Baker case and each one also admitted they thought Elisa Baker was responsible for the death of the girl.
"I think she done it," said Robbie Brooks. Crystal Bennett said she would like to be on the jury so she could "get into her mind and figure out what she was thinking to do what she did."
Elisa baker will have an administrative hearing before a judge on Thursday where motions from the state and the defense can be brought up.
It is not clear if the change of venue motion will be among those considered. The issue could be heard on a later date.
It would be up to a judge to decide if the motion has merit and where the case could be moved.
The motion asks for a judge to make the decision without hearing evidence. If not, the defense is asking the courts to provide funds for research into the pre-trial publicity so the results can be used at a later hearing.
Adam Baker, meanwhile, was in court Tuesday for an administrative hearing on charges he faces that are unrelated to the Zahra case.
The hearing was cut short when the defense team told the judge they are still awaiting some paperwork from the state.
The hearing was continued until September 6th. Adam is charged with using, someone else's name to obtain utility service for the house where he, Elisa and Zahra lived.
He has been the subject of widespread publicity as well but when asked whether a change of venue motion will be filed in his case, his attorney Scott Reilly said he could not comment on that at this time.
Adam is free on bond on the state charges and is being monitored by federal immigration officials.
He is required to wear an ankle monitoring device and report to Immigration Officials in person every week.
Elisa remains in jail under the state charges and is being held as a federal prisoner. She was indicted by a federal grand jury on drug charges last spring.