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Court grants continuance, change of venue request for East Texas man accused of murdering state trooper

In February, attorneys for an East Texas man accused of murdering a state trooper in Freestone County asked for a change of venue for his capital murder trial. On Monday, their request was granted with no objection from the prosecution.
Credit: Smith County judicial records

FREESTONE COUNTY, Texas — In February, attorneys for an East Texas man accused of murdering a state trooper in Freestone County asked for a change of venue for his capital murder trial.

On Monday, their request was granted with no objection from the prosecution. In fact, the prosecution said they believe "due to extensive pretrial publicity, a fair trial for either the State or the Defendant could not be had in Freestone County."

Officials say Dabrett Black, 34, of Lindale, gunned down Trooper Damon Allen on Thanksgiving Day 2017 during a traffic stop.

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Black's attorneys argued Trooper Allen was well-known in the community where their defendant was initially set to be tried. Furthermore, the community's population is less than 20,000 and, based on 2016 figures, an impartial jury would be difficult to find, Black's counsel said.

The defense team said Trooper Allen's death and funeral, including memorials and honors, attracted a large amount of media attention from television, radio, print and internet sources. The attention spread not just throughout Texas, but to national and international levels.

According to court documents, the Freestone County court will now determine a suitable venue in which to try Black.

The trial will remain a Freestone County case in all aspects, except for the actual venue. 

Also on Monday, the Judge granted a continuance, rescheduling the March 26 pre-trial hearing for June 28 at 10 a.m. 

Attorneys for Black say they are currently working with several experts performing tests, conducting reviews and evaluations that are not yet complete. 

The defense says because the pre-trial hearing initially set for Tuesday was mainly to discuss the mental state of Black, they were not able to fully engage "without the necessary records and information regarding the past and present mental health," of their client.