Judge denies Chiesa request

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Despite his lawyer's requests, a Wallace man charged in the shooting deaths of his two neighbors will stay put for his murder trial in Calaveras Superior Court.

Peter Chiesa, 64, faces two first-degree murder charges for the June 25, 2002, slayings of Annette Truman, 41, and Leslie Hannameyer, 42. His trial begins July 16.

Chiesa pleaded not guilty to both charges in October.

Chiesa's attorney, Clyde Blackmon of Sacramento, asked Calaveras Superior Court Judge John Martin on Friday to move the trial elsewhere. Blackmon said newspaper coverage of the murders has already turned many Calaveras County residents against Chiesa, and that would hinder his client's right to a fair trial.

But Martin denied the request.

"We put out evidence that we thought was presented well, and certainly it was valid information," Blackmon said yesterday.

He said he has 60 days to challenge the court's decision.

"We haven't made a decision yet" to challenge it, Blackmon said.

Calaveras County Deputy District Attorney Seth Matthews said Blackmon's request was "denied without prejudice" meaning Friday's ruling could be reconsidered if it becomes difficult to find a jury.

"They'll have another shot at it," Matthews said.

According to court documents, Blackmon hired an independent firm to survey Calaveras County residents about the Chiesa case.

Of the 400 people interviewed, the firm stated, half said Chiesa was "definitely guilty," and that 70 people said he was "probably guilty."

Matthews' written rebuttal stated that people surveyed were first asked if they had seen, read or heard anything about the case in which Chiesa is accused of killing his two neighbors, with whom he had a long-running dispute over a shared driveway. The argument turned deadly when the two women and their sons were clearing some lopped branches away from the drive.

Someone who had never heard of the case could analyze the question and draw a conclusion, Matthews said.

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The Union Democrat
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