Definitions

Change of venue

Change of venue

A change of venue is the legal term for moving a trial to a new location. In high-profile cases, a change of venue may occur to move a jury trial away from a location where finding a fair and impartial jury may not be possible due to widespread publicity about a crime and/or its defendant(s) to another community in order to obtain jurors who can be more objective. This change may be a few towns away, or across the state.

In law, the word venue designates the location where a trial will be held. It derives from the Latin word for "a place where people gather." Notwithstanding its use in high profile criminal cases, a change a venue is more typically sought when a defendant believes that the plaintiff's selected venue is either improper or less appropriate than another venue. A change of venue request because venue is improper means that the removing defendant believes that the case may not be in that venue because it is improper under procedural rules. A change of venue request may be submitted because the defendant believes there is a more appropriate venue - called forum non convenience - even if the current venue is proper under the procedural rules. In these cases, the trial judge is given great deference in most jurisdictions by appellate courts in making the decision as to whether to transfer the trial to a a more appropriate venue.

A change of venue may be reflected in the formal language used in a trial. For example, when a bailiff or marshal calls the court to order part of the cry will take the form "in and for the County of San Francisco"; When there is a change of venue the cry will be, "in the County of San Francisco for the County of Alameda."

High-profile cases

Examples of high-profile cases with a change of venue include the trials in Virginia of Beltway sniper attacks defendants Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. The crimes occurred in Northern Virginia and caused widespread publicity. The judges selected communities with similar demographics but more than 100 miles distant in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach in the far southeastern edge of Virginia. In the 20th century, controversial venue changes included the 1992 trial of the four Los Angeles police officers (LAPD) in the Rodney King incident. This trial was moved outside Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in neighboring Ventura County. In the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the court granted a change of venue, and ordered the case transferred from Oklahoma City to the U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado presided over by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch. In 1999, similar venue changes occurred in the Amadou Diallo murder case in which the NYPD defendants' trial was moved to Albany.

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