Editorial: Is changing a court venue just the jitters?

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Are defense lawyers too quick to request a change of venue? And are judges too quick to grant them?

We think so.

Event organizers often get jittery before their event. We know. We work in the newspaper industry and meet event organizers. Before their music festival, parade, fair, play, sports tournament or what have you, they suddenly get really worried about whether it will all happen well. It’s human nature. Then afterward, they are relieved it’s over, look to the bright side no matter the outcome and thank everyone for a job well done.

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You know what? Judges and lawyers get the same jitters. They worry about spoiling the jury pool and often cite media coverage as a means of spoiling the pool.

However, many high profile cases have been held in the counties in which the allegations occurred. In those cases, judges ruled against changing the venue. Those judges know that the reasons for changing a venue isn’t about how much media coverage takes place. It’s about whether that media coverage has been prejudicial.

We would argue that in many local cases the news media has reported known facts without libel, providing no reason to change a venue. And though, in this day and age, there are many more people mass communicating than just the news organizations (think social networking websites), those audiences are not large enough to taint an entire county.

In fact, even considering the audiences garnered by the local news media outlets, there remains many, many people who reside in Freeborn County — or most any county — who simply do not follow local events. As the saying goes, it’s like they live under a rock.

Local jury pools exist. We ask judges to take a deeper look before changing venues, no matter the case before them.