Where would Gabby Petito’s murder trial take place? Ask the lawyer – Daily Breeze


Question: Gabby Petito’s story is highly publicized. If someone is ultimately accused of killing her and that person is arrested, where would the trial take place and who would prosecute them?

-GK, Torrance

Ron Sokol

A: In a criminal case, the place where the offense is committed is often the place where the trial will take place. Various considerations may also be taken into account, such as the convenience of witnesses.

As for Petito’s situation: law enforcement is trying to determine if she was killed at the site where her body was found, or if perhaps her body was moved there from another location. Specifically, Ms Petito’s remains were discovered near Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest Service. It’s in Wyoming, and federal lands; thus, the United States attorney at that location would prosecute the accused. But, if it is determined that the body was moved from a location in the state, then the state attorney in that particular jurisdiction could effectively be the lead lawyer. As of yet, no final decision in this regard has been made, but reports indicate that she was the victim of a homicide (particularly a strangulation).

Question: Can there be a successful murder trial if no real body is found?

-JJ, La Quinta

A: Criminal cases sometimes advance without a body being discovered. The prosecutor focuses on other types of evidence to seek to show that the victim perished. This can include a lack of communication with family and friends as well as a lack of banking activity, no phone calls; and no presence at home or at work. An inference can be drawn from these circumstances and assessed against the burden of proof which is beyond a reasonable doubt. There may be other clues to rely on, such as blood spatter and hair samples, that infer that a death has occurred.

Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach lawyer with over 35 years of experience. His column, published on Wednesday, provides a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email him your questions and comments at [email protected]

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