A survey of Barton County residents on their perceptions of the Alicia DeBolt murder and the man accused of killing her, Adam Longoria, is being conducted by a Lincoln, Neb., firm Foot in the Door using a questionnaire prepared by professors at Pittsburg State University, said Troy Comeau of PSU's Communications Department.
However, it is being done on behalf of Longoria’s defense team, the Death Penalty Defense Unit, not the university. Longoria’s attorneys are interested in a possible change of venue, Comeau said.
“We want to look at the media, how people are getting their information and how strong their feelings are,” Comeau said. “We just want to see if he would get a fair trial.”
The defense lawyers contracted with Comeau and fellow PSU professor Shirley Drew to prepare the survey and with Foot in the Door to conduct it. Comeau and Drew will then interpret the results.
Bryce and Carol Bonness of Lincoln are the ones doing the calling.
“We try to be as random as possible,” he said. Over a several day span, they will call about 400 people in the county.
“Then, we report the facts,” he said. There are no results yet.
Comeau said the Dealth Penalty Defense use the data to support their motion to move the trial to different location. But, for the PSU professors, it has more meaning.
The Barton County survey included questions on such topics as the fairness of the investigation in the murder case, personal conversations on the topic, media coverage and local biases. Respondents were asked to answer based on a continuum ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
“It is a communications study,” he said. The information can be translated and used in an academic setting The survey framework was pioneered by late PSU professor Pete Hamilton, with whom Comeau worked. Comeau continued the research after Hamilton’s death, bring Drew on board with him.
The two do this on the side and not in conjunction with the university.
This marks their third of fourth survey, he said. One such survey last year in another county indicated there was little public awareness of the case in question.
Comeau is the director of broadcasting at PSU and Drew the director of speech communications.
The Tribune’s record custodian and Managing Editor Dale Hogg were both subpoenaed Thursday to testify at the upcoming hearing “on behalf of the defendant in a certain controversy now pending and undetermined in said court where in the State of Kansas is plaintiff and above named defendant.”
Due to a gag order, defense attorney Jeff Wicks with the Wichita office of the Death Penalty Defense Unit, could not discuss the case or his intentions.
Longoria is the Great Bend man accused of the August 2010 murder of 14-year-old DeBolt. He is charged with capital murder, however the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, which is handling the prosecution, is not seeking the death penalty. He is still being defended by the Death Penalty Defense Unit.