Court of Public Opinion
What prospective jurors may say during voir dire (jury selection) can frustrate the defense to the point that they are led to believe that the trial cannot be tried fairly at its present locale.
In some instances, mostly in high profile cases an attorney may ask the court for a change in venue due to the exposure the case has received in the news; making it challenging for defendant's counsel to pick jurors that can be seen to lean in a direction that may inhibit their client's defense.
This can also occur in cases that may not have reached a level of National prominence, but statewide or even local exposure may have conceivably poisoned the potential jury pool.
A change of venue can be requested if there's a reasonable likelihood the defendant can't receive a fair trial by an impartial jury or if it's deemed improper under procedural rules by the court.
The court will decide if there's grounds for the change after a defense attorney moves (raises a motion) to have this done.
Not all motions for a change of venue will be allowed by the court. But it can be granted if there has been a great deal of negative pre-trial publicity toward the defendant.
A good example of a local matter where a change of venue may have applied is taken from an article posted on my blog this month.
In this particular case, a change of venue wasn't requested but due to the large amount of negative local press as well as a large amount of adverse comments on Social Media the possibility certainly may have made this case a contender for a motion to the court
The incident involves a recently divorced couple who lived on the west coast of Florida. The defendant was a school teacher and the victim was a retired police officer.
The defendant shot and killed her ex-husband. Both the prosecution and defense have stipulated to that fact.
John Rush was shot to death by his ex-wife Cara Ryan after she invited him to her home.
The prosecution tried to prove her guilt based on evidence that she changed her story on numerous occasions.
The defense told a story of self-defense
After the defendant was arrested, some of the local TV stations painted a picture of the victim as a good cop with an outstanding record who was lured to the home of his ex-wife based on a text containing sexual innuendo.
A news conference by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office further painted a damning picture of Ms. Ryan who allegedly gave investigators multiple conflicting statements of how the homicide took place. During the news conference the spokesman for the police department calls the fallen officer as J.J. throughout his briefing to the press. He went on to say that "the concocted nonsense she (Ms. Ryan) came up with was just that". It was obvious that the spokesman was a friend of the victim and seemed overly distraught as he faced the cameras.
The entire video of the press event can be viewed at this link.
Headlines in news articles at the time of her arrest seemed to also find favorable praise for the victim and most read extremely damning toward the accused.
Below are just some of the headlines that were written in local newspapers or could be found on online publications and blogs on the Internet:
1 Craazzy High School Journalism Teacher Bitch Cara Ryan Shoots Ex-Husband J J (John Joseph Rush) Dead
2 Ex-wife charged in St. Pete officer's shooting death
3 Former St. Pete officer shot to death by ex-wife, deputies say
4 Teacher, in phone calls, acknowledged killing ex-husband, detectives say
Additionally, the buzz on Social Media at the time of her arrest was mostly negative leading viewers to possibly form an opinion of guilt before a trial was held.
To read the complete story on my legal blog, follow this link.
If you have been charged, arrested or believe there is an investigation in progress that may involve a homicide I am always available to help. When it is essential to immediately contact a qualified criminal defense attorney, your call will be taken 24/7 including weekends and all holidays.
My résumé includes close to a combined forty years working as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting cases for the government and currently practicing as a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for almost half of that period of my professional career. On the state level, I previously held the office of Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, Florida making my law firm the logical choice to fight all allegations filed by either the State of Florida or any prosecutorial branch of the federal government.
To view my complete résumé and full list of qualifications, and understand what should be your next step if you or someone you care about is accused of a homicide or are facing any other criminal allegations, click here.