At the end of September, the New Haven Register highlighted the challenges facing attorneys who want to request a change of venue. The defense attorney for the manslaughter case involving fired police Officer Jason Anderson requested a change of venue, and as the newspaper points out, such appeals are seldom approved by the state judge.
The case is an extreme example of a car accident. Anderson, in a police car without activated lights and a siren, was traveling at 94 miles per hour when he hit another vehicle carrying two Orange 19-year-olds on July 13, 2009 at 2:15 a.m. on Boston Post Road. Both passengers died, and they were both later found to have elevated blood alcohol levels and were not wearing seatbelts. Anderson, however, was not responding to an emergency.
Last month, a request to move the trial to Litchfield County was requested. According to the defense attorney, three years of news coverage have created a biased jury pool.
The New Haven Register, through citing multiple local attorneys, points out the difficulties behind approval for a change of venue and why some attorneys may still make a request: lawyers, aware of the difficulties, tend to not ask at all, but if they do, it’s to get away from excessive publicity and negative information about the client but also to gather more support for a client in an area with less media coverage. Ultimately, though, it’s about finding the most impartial jury for a trial.
Just how difficult can a change of venue in Connecticut be? In September 2011, the judge overseeing the murder trial for Joshua Komisarjevsky, considered the worst homicide in the state’s history, dismissed a change of venue request to Stamford. Other rejected requests to reduce media bias included dismissing and replacing the selected jury and removing all newspaper boxes from the outside of a courthouse.
Although media influence and the resulting bias are considered for a change of venue, in any state, other factors may come into play. While the involved parties may determine a different venue for convenience purposes, the venue itself may be improper, or not in accordance with rules of procedure, or the venue may be changed for interest of justice, including relocation for multiple factors like travel cost, evidence, or applicable law.