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Fate Decided by Local Jury: Judge Rejects Change of Venue Request in Cleotha Abston Rape Case

Judge Rejects Change of Venue Request

In 2021, Tennessee man Cleotha Abston was charged with raping a woman. In 2022, he was charged with kidnapping and killing schoolteacher Eliza Fletcher. The defense asked for a different courtroom, but the judge said no.

Abston’s lawyer, Juni Ganguli, said that local jurors wouldn’t give his client a fair trial due to media coverage of both cases, but Shelby County Judge Lee Coffee refused his plea.

“Abston could get a fair trial with a Shelby County jury, noting the 2022 murder trial of former NBA star Lorenzen Wright, which had tremendous media attention but employed a local jury.” – Lee Coffee, Judge

Although Abston has pled not guilty to both the rape and murder allegations, the sexual assault kit processing delayed his arrest for the 2021 rape. Shelby County will hold the rape trial on April 8.

Fletcher’s body was located days later outside an empty duplex.

If Abston is convicted of first-degree murder in Fletcher’s case, prosecutors will seek execution. No murder trial date has been set.

After Fletcher’s murder, Abston was charged with rape in 2021. After the delay in processing sexual assault kits, Tennessee law required the TBI to report testing times periodically.

Ganguli asked the judge to bring a Nashville jury for the April rape trial. Judge Coffee believed Abston could receive a fair trial with a local jury. He highlighted the 2022 murder trial of former NBA star Lorenzen Wright, where a local jury was chosen despite media interest.

The trials have garnered attention because to sexual assault probes and high-profile criminal prosecutions. The Memphis justice and accountability narrative will evolve as the court proceedings progress.

Cleotha Abston’s case is complicated and public. Abston’s legal fate now hinge on the 2021 rape trial after the change of venue motion was denied.

Juni Ganguli, Abston’s defense attorney, argued that substantial media coverage of the rape and murder cases would bias local jurors. However, Judge Lee Coffee’s decision to use a Shelby County jury shows confidence in the local judicial system’s fairness.

Legal proceedings are complicated by the April rape trial preceding the murder trial. Abston’s 2021 rape arrest, delayed by the sexual assault kit, has inspired legislative efforts to speed up forensic investigations.

Public attention and calls for justice have increased due to Abston’s serious charges, particularly in relation to Eliza Fletcher’s kidnapping and death. The Memphis community was shaken by Fletcher’s death, showing how high-profile cases affect locals.

To get the death penalty for Fletcher’s murder, prosecutors must prove a lot. The sexual assault legal landscape and criminal justice reform debate will certainly impact Abston’s trials.

As legal proceedings continue, the community seeks accountability for the alleged crimes and closure for victims and their families. The trials in the coming months will highlight these difficulties and challenge the justice system’s ability to handle complicated matters fairly and impartially.

Abston’s trials address systemic legal issues and the search for justice in the face of horrible acts. The legal community, advocates, and the public will closely follow these trials, expecting their outcomes and considering their lessons for future cases.


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