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Venue change denied for husband and wife murder suspects

Attorney says “Bonnie and Clyde” comparison unfair
Posted at 10:02 AM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 20:28:03-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - Husband and wife murder suspects, who escaped from a prisoner transport van -- got a lot of news coverage in their sixteen days on the run.

Monday, Susan Barksdale's attorney tried and failed to convince a judge that publicity justified moving the trial to another county. But first, criminals from 85 years ago became part of the case.

Blane and Susan Barksdale were arrested in upstate New York for the murder of Frank Bligh in Tucson.

They escaped from a prison transport van and were fugitives for 16 days.

That led to comparisons with Bonnie and Clyde, the bank robbing couple from the 1930s.

Now Susan Barksdale's attorney says that comparison compromises her chance for a fair trial.

It did get a lot of coverage when Blane and Susan Barksdale escaped from a prisoner transfer van and lived as fugitives for sixteen days.

U.S. Marshals found and arrested them in an out of the way part of the White Mountains called Punkin Center.

Some coverage played on the fact they are a married couple and compared them to Bonnie and Clyde, a couple who became infamous bank robbers and killers in the 1930s.

Susan Barksdale's attorney Benjamin Mendola says that comparison from media was bad enough but he says law enforcement made Bonnie and Clyde comparisons too -- the sort that could prejudice a jury.

He told Judge Danelle Liwski, "Here, I believe the facts will show and I'll be arguing that they had completely different roles. They're not as Bonnie and Clyde are portrayed as two committed lovers who do everything together until the bloody end. We have two folks with very different situations."

But prosecutor Chris Ward argued he's trying the Barksdales for the murder of Frank Bligh, not for escape, publicity has died down since the Barkdales were arrested, and the Bonnie and Clyde comparison is not really damaging.

He says, “It's really kind of a public consciousness metaphor for two people that have a romantic relationship, then go on the run. There's nothing that's amounting to character assasination in that. It's more of an interesting story that captures the public's attention."

KGUN used Bonnie and Clyde references in this story because they were the heart of the hearing.

But Bonnie and Clyde references do not appear in any Barksdale stories in our script archives.

It is possible we carried news conferences on Facebook live where law enforcement used that term.


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