Judge Denies Trial Move for Defendant Charged in Fatal Shooting of Latasha Roundtree

By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

A judge Tuesday denied a change of venue for one of the defendants charged in the fatal

shooting of 19-year-old Latasha Roundtree in 2012.

The trial of Tajh Ross, 20, who is charged with first-degree murder, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and going armed with intent, will remain in Linn County District Court set for May 12.

Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady in his order said the media coverage had been mostly factual in terms of what the state alleges and it’s been more “episodic rather than constant.” In order for a judge to move a case to another county, the defendant must show the pretrial publicity is “so pervasive and inflammatory that prejudice must be presumed” and it would prevent the defendant from having a fair and impartial trial, according to the ruling.

Grady said the media coverage did include focus on Roundtree’s family and friends and the increased gun violence in Cedar Rapids, but it didn’t approach the level of pervasiveness or “tenor of specific outrage” at Ross that it prevents him from receiving a fair trial.

Ross’ attorney, Doug Davis, also argued last week the social media coverage had also prejudiced his client.

Grady said in the order there’s no indication who read or participated in the social media discussion, which had 1,600 “hits,” but that number represents less than one percent of the county’s population and that’s assuming all those were Linn County residents or eligible to serve as jurors.

Grady said “skillful use of questioning” during jury selection will allow Ross to have a fair trial.

According to a criminal complaint, Ross is accused of shooting a firearm into a car where Roundtree was a passenger Sept. 22, 2012, according to criminal complaint. The complaint or police have never said if Roundtree was the intended target of the shooting.

The four others charged in the homicide:

- Liban Muhidin, 22, of Cedar Rapids, pleaded guilty in July 2013 to conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and faces up to 10 years in prison. He admitted to conspiring with four others to shoot at the vehicle.

- Adrian M. Kenney, 23, of Cedar Rapids, pleaded guilty in October 2013 to perjury and accessory after fact. He faces up to 7 years in prison. He admitted to giving false information about the crime to police and disposing of evidence and helping others flee from the scene.

-Jeremiah Ellis, 19, of Cedar Rapids, is charged with first-degree murder, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and going armed with intent. He is accused of firing weapons into the car, according to criminal complaint.

-Yasin Muhidin, 18, of unknown address, is charged with first-degree murder, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, trafficking in stolen weapons, going armed with intent and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, an aggravated misdemeanor. He is accused of killing Roundtree or aiding and abetting another who killed her, according to a complaint. He also is accused of supplying the firearm or aiding and abetting another who supplied the firearm used in the shooting.

Trial for Ellis and Muhidin is set Oct. 6.

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