FAIRFAX, Va. — Former Fairfax County Police Officer Adam Torres will remain behind bars where his lawyers say he has been threatened, after a judge Friday rejected motions for bond and to dismiss the murder indictment against him for the 2013 shooting death of John Geer.
Judge Robert Smith denied Torres’ motions to dismiss the indictment, to move the trial outside of Fairfax County due to all of the publicity surrounding the case and to be released on bond.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors improperly introduced Torres’ own statements to internal police investigators about the shooting to the special grand jury just before the indictment was handed down this summer. Smith ruled that even if he accepted that to be true, the indictment would still stand.
Supporting the motion for a change of venue, defense attorney John Carroll argued that the vast amount of information available to the public about the case now makes it “unique.”
As part of a civil suit in the case following long delays in the criminal investigation, the county posted much of the evidence online just under a year ago.
Prosecutor Casey Lingan countered that Fairfax County residents have shown the ability to serve on juries in other high-profile cases from the killing of Vanessa Pham to the recent trial of Jesse Matthew.
“The defendant had to come up with more than mere apprehension,” Lingan told Judge Smith. “Media reports could be viewed in any locality.”
“We’ve tried serial killers here and had no problem seating a jury,” Lingan continued.
“The question is, despite what you’ve heard, can you put those reports aside?”
The judge did leave open the slight possibility that the trial could still be moved out of the county if there are problems finding a jury and alternates.
Both sides signaled that a major issue at the trial will be whether Geer was “armed.”
Carroll says Geer had a loaded weapon easily within reach.
Lingan said the gun was not on Geer.
“There was a gun on a landing several feet from him in a holster,” he says.
Geer was talking with other officers when he was shot. Those officers say Geer’s hands were up.
Torres smiled at his attorneys and his wife as he was brought into the courtroom wearing an ivory long-sleeve shirt under a green jail jumpsuit.
Carroll claimed that the evidence used to support Torres being held on bond, including his “deteriorating mental state” was “not true.”
In arguing for bond, Carroll also cited Torres’ good work during his nearly two years on desk duty after the shooting and before he was fired. Torres was working with the police department’s interns and helping with paperwork tied to new recruits.
“He’s no risk to anyone,” Carroll said.
In addition to procedural challenges, Lingan challenged the claim that Torres’ mental state was stable. Torres had been arguing in a long phone call on the day of the shooting.
“The defendant shot Mr. Geer at close range in the chest,” Lingan said.
“This defendant shot an unarmed man who was in his house with his hands up,” Lingan told the court.
The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection Dec. 14.
Judge Smith said he would rule next week on a request from media organizations to allow cameras and recording in the courtroom.
Virginia law gives the trial judge complete direction over whether to grant an exception to allow video or still cameras to record a trial.