Venue change granted in Julian's manslaughter trial

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ Department of Corrections Officer Steven Julian was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a coroner's inquest in the death of Zachary Snyder on Tuesday, February 26, 2008.

A Department of Corrections investigator charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a fugitive will face trial in a central Missouri county that includes a prison and many residents employed by the state prison system.

In a brief appearance Monday before Circuit Judge Benjamin Lewis, Steven R. Julian, 46, of Altenburg, Mo., entered a plea of not guilty and his attorney, Stephen Wilson, filed a motion for a change of venue stating that he and prosecutors had agreed to send the case to Callaway County.

Callaway County is just north of the state capitol of Jefferson City. There is a prison in Fulton, Mo., the county seat, as well as prisons in Audrain County to the north and two prisons, as well as the headquarters of the prison system, in Cole County to the south.

A coroner's inquest held Feb. 26 determined that Julian was not justified in using deadly force when he attempted on Feb. 14 to apprehend parole absconder Zachary C. Snyder. Swingle charged Julian with involuntary manslaughter, a Class D felony, on Feb. 27. If convicted, Julian faces up to four years in state prison.

Julian is currently free after posting $1,000 cash as a percentage of his $10,000 bond. He is on administrative leave and was required to turn in his firearm certification card after the shooting, standard policy for the corrections department. Julian is a fugitive apprehension officer.

After Lewis accepted the not guilty plea and the motion for a change of venue, Swingle said he is certain that Julian will take the case to trial rather than accept a plea agreement.

Swingle also said he allowed Julian and Wilson to select the county for a change of venue. "I told the defense that I would accept whatever county they decided to try it in, and they picked that one," Swingle said.

The number of people in the county who are employed by the corrections department won't be an issue in the case, Swingle said, adding that he has conducted trials in the county before and expects no difficulties finding a fair jury.

According to testimony at the inquest and sworn statements from investigators filed with the charges, Julian on Feb. 14 went to an apartment complex in the 2800 block of Themis Street on a tip that he would find Snyder, wanted on a fugitive warrant for violating his supervised probation since his release from the Department of Corrections after serving a sentence for possession of a controlled substance and stealing a motor vehicle in 2003.

Julian was alone when he attempted to arrest Snyder. Julian pulled his gun as he approached Snyder and shot him in the back, according to testimony at the inquest.

Wilson, Julian's attorney, declined to comment after the court hearing Monday.

The location of the trial is immaterial to the case, Swingle said. "I think the facts of this case speak for themselves," he said. "It won't matter who the 12 jurors are."

335-6611, extension 126

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