A Flathead County District Court judge on June 20 denied a change-of-venue motion for the upcoming jury trial of a transient man charged in a September 2021 fatal shooting outside of a Kalispell fitness center.
In their request, attorneys defending 37-year-old Jonathan Douglas Shaw cited unfavorable pre-trial publicity and a negative sentiment displayed by some Flathead County leaders toward the homeless population.
Shaw has entered not guilty pleas to a felony count of deliberate homicide and a second felony count of attempted deliberate homicide for allegedly killing the manager of Fuel Fitness and Nutrition and injuring a customer more than a year-and-a-half ago.
In denying the motion, Judge Dan Wilson wrote in his order that the request was filed after the omnibus hearing deadline, which would have been a violation if approved. He also noted that a significant amount of time has passed since media coverage of the alleged shooting.
“Shaw has not demonstrated that pre-trial news reports concerning his case are inflammatory and, for that reason, the motion lacks merit,” Judge Wilson wrote in his order denying the motion. “The process of voir dire [jury selection] will provide appropriate means to ensure that Shaw receives a fair trial.”
Shaw’s defense attorneys, Colin Stephens and Paul Simon, on May 23 filed the motion for a change of venue, citing “extensive and unfavorable media coverage” as the basis for their request. They argued the publicity surrounding the case would make it impossible for the defendant to receive a fair and impartial jury trial in Flathead County.
In addition to media coverage, the motion cites a community-wide discussion about the local homeless population, and references a controversial letter written by Flathead County commissioners that was published in local newspapers earlier this year. Attorneys argued the letter reflected a “negative attitude of homeless individuals” and is “reflective of a broader community bias.”
Deputy Flathead County Attorney John Donovan wrote in response that the defendant’s motion is “untimely, and it fails to make the requisite showing of community prejudice.”
According to charging documents, witnesses told law enforcement that Fuel Fitness Manager Matthew Hurley approached Shaw in the parking lot when he learned the defendant had been sleeping at the facility without permission. Hurley then revoked Shaw’s gym membership in exchange for a partial refund, prompting Shaw to shoot at Hurley, who died at the scene.
The defendant also allegedly shot and injured Fuel Fitness customer William Keck, who retrieved a pistol from his vehicle during the shootout and exchanged fire with the defendant.
Shaw is scheduled to stand trial on July 10 in Flathead County District Court before Wilson.
Shaw remains jailed in the Flathead County Detention Center on a $1 million bond. He faces a maximum sentence of 100 years in the Montana State Prison or the death penalty.
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