Jerrod Watkins trial date set; defense may ask for venue change for intoxication manslaughter case

Published 12:30 am Tuesday, April 5, 2022

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An attorney for a Bridge City man accused of two counts of intoxication manslaughter may ask for a change of venue in the coming weeks.

Ryan Getz, attorney for Jerrod Watkins, said they would likely seek a change of venue before April 19, primarily because the case has been highly publicized in the media and social media. Gertz said the defense is concerned too many potential jurors in Orange County may have formulated an opinion about the case without knowing the facts.

A status hearing for Watkins was held last week in the 163rd District Court in Orange County. During the hearing, Watkins indicated he wanted to move forward forward with trial, which is set for May 23, according to information from the court.

Watkins is charged in the June, 2020, deaths of Jillian Blanchard, 20, of Port Neches, and Robert Jackson, 45, of Orange.

Jackson was struck by a vehicle while riding his bicycle on Ferry Road in Bridge City. Blanchard was killed a few minutes later when a Ford F-150 truck and her car crashed head-on in Orangefield.

Authorities say Watkins was driving the truck.

Mandi Jackson, widow of Robert, said she is disappointed Watkins chose to go to trial as opposed to pleading guilty and settling outside of a trial. This, she said, is difficult for her.

“He knows he did it and would prefer the sympathy of a jury instead of apologizing,” Mandi Jackson said.

Emotionally, she is prepared.

“I’m prepared emotionally for the trial,” she said. “I’ve been waiting on it a year-and-a-half.”

— By Mary Meaux