Editorial: Keep the venue in northern Iowa

Published 10:29 am Monday, October 14, 2013

Requesting a change of venue away from Northwood for the Tyrone Washington Jr. homicide trial is a reasonable request. His lawyer sees that he is a black man in a county of 7,500 people who are 98 percent white. Less than 3/10ths of the population is black. It would be difficult to find a jury of his peers.

That said, it would be an undue burden on witnesses and on the friends and family of Justina Marie Smith to travel especially long distances to be at the trial. And considering the desire for a larger population pool, we imagine the Iowa court system would favor a big county.

We hope the venue would be Cerro Gordo, as opposed to Webster, Dubuque, Story, Polk, Woodbury, Marshall, Black Hawk or Linn counties. Cerror Gordo — home of Mason City and Clear Lake — is 96 percent white, but it would have enough people who haven’t followed any of the pretrial publicity. Enough of them would be minorities.

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It’s amazing how many people, no matter their race, creed or color, live their lives disconnected from the world around them. The bigger the city, the more disconnected people can be found. In a county with more than 44,000 people, the lawyers clearly can find a suitable jury. Otherwise, they must be quite disconnected from the lives of everyday, paycheck-to-paycheck, just-raising-their-family folks.

The public courts are meant to serve the public. Let’s not force people to travel halfway across the state of Iowa to witness this trial. We hope the venue remains in northern Iowa.