Hall County court officials summoned 600 people for jury selection to begin Monday, June 21, for the murder trial concerning the death of Hall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nicolas Dixon.
Three of the four Gainesville men named in the indictment — Hector Garcia-Solis, 19, London Clements, 18, and Eric Velazquez, 19 — are slated for trial next week. The fourth man, Brayan Cruz, 19, had his case severed May 27, according to court documents.
All four have been charged with malice murder among other counts in an August 2019 indictment.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Dixon, 28, was attempting July 7, 2019, to stop a stolen vehicle that was occupied by four people. The people in the car ran, and Dixon encountered Garcia-Solis on Highland Avenue in Gainesville, according to the GBI.
The GBI said gunfire was exchanged, and Dixon was fatally shot.
The Hall County Public Defender’s Office confirmed that the trial would continue as scheduled despite the sudden death of Garcia-Solis’ lead defense counsel, assistant public defender David Hoffer.
Hoffer died Sunday, June 13.
Northeastern Judicial Circuit Public Defender Brad Morris said Rob McNeal, a senior attorney in the public defender’s office, would serve as substitute counsel alongside assistant public defender Matt Cavedon.
Hall County court officials asked for approval in April to use the Lanier Technical College’s Ramsey Conference Center as an alternate venue for the trial out of necessity for health precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin entered a new order after allowing the circuit’s COVID-19 judicial emergency to expire June 7. It also nixed all plans to use the North Hall Community Center or the technical college’s conference center as alternative venues.
Court administrator Jason Stephenson said social distancing has been relaxed so that the jury assembly is spaced 3 feet apart instead of 6 feet apart. Court officials will still, however, stagger the report times to limit the number of people arriving at one time, Stephenson said.
The public will be able to attend in person rather than watching from a separate streaming room, though presiding Superior Court Judge Jason Deal will allow the trial to be livestreamed, Stephenson said.
The trial will be moved to Gosselin’s courtroom because the audio/visual upgrades are incomplete in Deal’s courtroom, Stephenson said.
This story was originally published by the Gainesville Times.