Loughner Likely To Request Change Of Venue
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Now, Ted mentioned the request made in the Phoenix courtroom today to move proceedings back to Tucson. But as we heard, there is a larger request looming. Jared Loughner's defense attorney, Judy Clarke, is expected to ask that the trial be moved out of Arizona entirely to make it more likely to find an impartial jury.
Valerie Hans is an expert on the jury system and a professor of law at Cornell. She says it's very hard to get a change of venue request approved, and it should be hard.
Professor VALERIE HANS (Cornell University Law School): There are lots of reasons for that. The most important is the local community is the one that is most deeply affected by a particular crime. And so, it's right that justice should seem to be done and done locally.
And there is some logistical things, too, that it's a lot easier for victims and witnesses to attend proceedings, to observe what is going on and to see how the local attorneys are managing the case on their behalf.
BLOCK: But from the defense point of view, there is the issue of taint and whether their client is going to be getting a fair trial. So how does a judge weigh that against the interest of having a trial in the community in which the crime occurred?
Prof. HANS: Well, if Judy Clarke will follow in the footsteps of most defense attorneys who make change of venue motions, the judge will consider the evidence that she provides. And I would expect that to be evidence about the extent of local media coverage. But also, it might be supplemented by public opinion polls and surveys and interviews with people in the local community about how they've been affected by the events.
There's another matter, too, in the Tucson shootings. There were so many victims. And so you have lots of people in the local community who might be directly connected to one of the victims of the shootings. And that might also make it very difficult to find a jury that is unbiased in the City of Tucson.
BLOCK: Professor Hans, do you look back at the decision in the Oklahoma City bombing case, to move that trial from Oklahoma City to Denver? Do you look at that and say that is really the model that will likely be followed in Arizona? Of course, in Oklahoma City, there were many, many more victims.
Prof. HANS: I think that Timothy McVeigh case is a really good model. In Oklahoma City, again, the many connections that community members had with the victims made it extremely difficult to have a fair and unbiased jury, or select a fair and unbiased jury, in the usual methods that the trial court relies on to try to weed out people who really can be fair and open in listening to the evidence of the case. And in Tucson, there may very well be the same kind of connections in the local community.
BLOCK: And it's those connections that are really the key here, right? Because they don't expect jurors to be a complete blank slate, never having heard of a crime. The question is, can they be impartial?
Prof. HANS: I think there's a really interesting question in our 24/7 news cycle and the fact that radio, television and lots of other media have spent tremendous resources and time and energy covering this case already. And you might find, in fact, that in San Diego, one of the possible alternate locations for the trial, there are plenty of people who know lots about the case.
And that makes the argument perhaps more plausible that there's no need to move it because you wouldn't be moving to a location where nobody had heard about the case, no one had formed any prejudgments.
But what I've seen in some other high-profile cases, like the one of Timothy McVeigh, is that even though basic knowledge may be comparable in one jurisdiction and in the home jurisdiction where the crime occurred, the emotional reaction to the crime and prejudgment about the defendant is up stronger in the local community than elsewhere.
And it's going to be up Judge Larry Burns to balance all of these factors; the desire for Tucson to see justice done in this particular case in its own community, and the rights of the defendant to have a fair and impartial jury decide the case.
BLOCK: Professor Hans, thanks for talking with us.
Prof. HANS: My pleasure.
BLOCK: Valerie Hans is a professor at Cornell Law School.
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