District Judge Lee Hamilton on Tuesday denied a request to move the trial of ex-Dyess Air Force Base dependent Tiffany Klapheke out of Taylor County.
In the 104th District Court, Judge Hamilton concluded Klapheke – who was arrested Aug. 29, 2012 after her toddler, Tamryn, was found unresponsive in their home on base the day before – could receive a fair trial here.
Klapheke called 911 to report the unresponsive toddler. Klapheke was arrested the following day and, according to an autopsy, Tamryn was dehydrated, malnourished and had suffered chemical burns from her own waste.
In an August 9 initial motion for a transfer of venue hearing, Klapheke's defense attorney, David Thedford, claimed she could not get a fair trial in Taylor County and presented witness to back his claim.
District Attorney James Eidson, who will prosecute the case, argued the opposite and presented his own witnesses.
Closing arguments began at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday – and Judge Hamilton denied Thedford’s motion by about 9 a.m.
“It's not really a surprise, you know. These things, these cases like this, are hard to transfer because of the law involved; however, you know that we can still – and probably will – raise that motion during voir dire (during jury selection) so we'll see if we can sit a jury,” Thedford told KTXS after the ruling. “This case has received so much publicity that it's hard for people to set that aside and truly be fair, and so everyone is entitled to a fair trial, that's what we're seeking.”
He said seating an impartial jury will not be an easy task.
“It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be very time-consuming because those people need to be questioned extensively one-on-one about ‘what have you heard? What opinions have you formed? Can you set those aside and be fair in this case?” Thedford said.
Klapheke is formally charged with a felony count of injury to a child.
“This is potentially a five to life sentence and there are other lesser included offenses that the jury may get a chance to see in a jury charge, so we really don't know. It could be as low as two to 10, it could be as high as five to life,” Thedford said. “Ms. Klapheke is doing OK. She doesn't particularly like where she's at right now, but she understands the reality of the situation. But Tiffany communicates with us and is helping us prepare for this trial.”
Klapheke will undergo a pretrial hearing Sept. 13 and go to trial Sept. 30 in a preferential jury trial setting.