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Sources: Loughner change of venue likely

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By Michael Truelsen - email

A change of venue is likely in the case of Jared Loughner, who faces multiple charges in the shooting of 19 people - six fatally - at a Jan. 8 Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' event.

Robert Weisberg, a Stanford University criminal law professor, told the Los Angeles Times that logic dictates that the case be moved.

"There's so much local volatility about this case, and there isn't a good argument against moving it to California," he said.

Finding an impartial jury pool is difficult enough, but if Loughner is convicted, it could be overturned if a judge finds that public opinion convicted him.

The Times reports:

Ingrid V. Eagly, who teaches evidence and criminal defense at UCLA School of Law, said "the judge would be engaging in a fact-based analysis, looking at all the different factors in finding a jurisdiction, the No. 1 being where can the defendant obtain a fair and impartial trial."

Defense lawyers can get convictions overturned on appeal if they can show that publicity surrounding their clients' crimes was so inflammatory that jurors were prejudiced. But the Supreme Court ruled in June that intense media coverage of the Enron Corp. scandal didn't automatically bias the Houston jury that convicted former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling. That decision has likely encouraged prosecutors to try to keep the Loughner case in Tucson, said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor now teaching criminal law at Loyola Law School.

"The bar is fairly high to obtain a change of venue or claim prejudice [on appeal] if there hasn't been a change of venue," Levenson said. "That said, this is a pretty extreme case, and I wouldn't be surprised if the trial is moved."

The Washington Post, quoting anonymous federal law enforcement sources, reported that while the final decision has not been made, "It's going to happen. It's just a matter of time."

But it won't happen without a fight.

"The Department plans to bring the case in Arizona and will oppose any change in venue motions," said Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller .

 

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