A Carroll County Circuit Court judge refused today to move the trial of Kevin Cooper, who is charged with drunken driving in the deaths of five members of a Montgomery County family last Christmas Eve, saying that mass communications make it difficult to find any site where publicity over drunken driving hasn't reached.
"We've come from smoke signals . . . to communications satellites," said Judge Donald J. Gilmore. "It would appear that this subject has been dealt with on a national basis and it may be difficult to find jurors who are not familiar with the subject."
But Gilmore did grant a request by Cooper's attorneys to continue the trial until July 12 to create a "cooling-off period" to see if publicity surrounding the case continues. Cooper is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday before the recess.
Attorneys for Cooper, a 26-year-old carpenter from Glen Burnie, argued that many of the 174 news articles and five television reports they collected focused on the Dec. 24 accident, in which two sons and three grandchildren of Richard and Martha Proctor of Clarksburg were killed.
Cooper, who appeared in court today with his wife, Roberta, and his mother, Jean, faces a variety of charges in connection with the accident, including driving while under the influence, homicide by automobile while intoxicated, and automobile manslaughter.
According to Maryland State Police, Martha Proctor and her family were on their way to a Christmas Eve church service in Westminster when Cooper's car struck them head-on along Rte. 27, a two-lane country road near Mount Airy, about 60 miles north of Washington.
"Not only has there been intense publicity immediately following the incident," said George Pappas, one of Cooper's attorneys, "but the publicity has not died down."
State's Attorney Thomas Hickman said that, with only a few exceptions, the articles cited by Pappas refer to the broad issue of drunken driving and not specifically to Cooper's case.