A Kern County judge on Friday denied a motion for a change of venue and said accused murderer Sabrina Limon will stand trial Monday in the death of her husband three years ago.
The case has received widespread media attention since the arrests of Limon, of Helendale, and her alleged lover, Jonathan Hearn, a former Redlands firefighter. "Dateline NBC," among other media, are expected to be present during opening statements Monday morning.
Limon, 37, is charged with crimes including first-degree murder and faces a life term in prison if convicted.
Her attorney, Richard Terry, has expressed concerns that media coverage tainted the local jury pool, but Judge John R. Brownlee said jury selection revealed a majority of potential jurors called to the courtroom had not been impacted by coverage of the case.
A total of 190 jurors were brought to the courtroom beginning last week, Brownlee said. Of those, 86 were released due to hardship.
The remaining 104 received a publicity questionnaire to determine how much they had heard about the case and whether they had strong feelings about it.
Forty-four people said they had no media exposure to the case, Brownlee said. Thirty-one said they encountered coverage of the case but it didn't impact them at all.
A total of 16 jurors said media coverage of the case had affected them to where they could not be fair and impartial. That number represented 15.3 percent of all jurors who took the publicity questionnaire.
The remaining 13 jurors were classified in another category because of legal cause or other hardship.
Based on those findings, Brownlee found no reasonable likelihood Limon could not get a fair trial in Kern County.
The judge also ruled on several other motions, allowing recorded discussions Limon had with law enforcement into evidence except in cases where she asked for an attorney yet was questioned further.
Earlier Friday, Brownlee agreed to allow livestreaming of the trial after he and attorneys met with local and national media outlets.
One video camera and one still camera will be allowed in the courtroom. All television stations and other media will be able to connect to the live feed so each entity receives the footage at the same time.
"Dateline NBC" will control the camera during court Monday. Representatives from "Dateline" assured Brownlee the coverage will be unobtrusive, with wires taped to the floor and small microphones clipped onto the witness stand and a podium.
The judge noted several concerns raised by attorneys, especially Terry, who scowled and sighed heavily when the possibility of livestreaming the proceedings was raised.
Terry said it's possible witnesses could view the livestream and change their testimony based on what they saw.
"I don't care about them," Terry told Brownlee in reference to the media. "I don't care about the news. I care about a fair trial for my client, your honor."
After speaking in private with Terry and prosecutor Eric Smith, Brownlee granted the livestreaming request. He said, however, no video or audio can be broadcast in the hallway outside the courtroom, where most of the equipment will be set up.
Witnesses will be waiting in the hallway before they're called to the stand.
Additionally, no interviews regarding the trial are allowed inside the courthouse.
In January, Hearn, 27, agreed to testify against Limon as part of a plea agreement in which he'll serve 25 years and four months in prison.
Hearn testified during Limon's preliminary hearing that he gunned down Robert Limon, 37, on Aug. 17, 2014, so he and Sabrina Limon could be together. The two had long carried on an affair, he said.
Months before the killing, Hearn said he bought arsenic trioxide as he and Sabrina Limon plotted killing Robert Limon by poisoning his banana pudding.
They abandoned that idea as too risky, Hearn said.