Does the decision to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the Boston Marathon bombing in Boston spell the end to changes of venue in high-profile cases? The Christian Science Monitor raises that question, noting that the 1997 trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was moved to Denver on the grounds that he wouldn’t receive a fair trial in Oklahoma. Lawyers for six Baltimore police officers facing charges related to the death of Freddie Gray in their custody could make a strong case for a change of venue. “Whether that [trial] will be held in a different part of the state or not will be a really interesting issue,” says Northeastern University law Prof. Daniel Medwed.
The Baltimore case is similar to the Tsarnaev one, he adds, because Gray’s death triggered protests around the city. Some protests turned violent, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency and a one-week curfew. “That means every single person in Baltimore was affected by this incident,” says Medwed. “Even if they had no relationship, even if they had nothing to do with the riots, they were all affected by that curfew.” In the Tsarnaev case, says David Hoose, a defense attorney in Northampton, Ma.,”All of us in the greater Boston area [were victims of the bombings], and that made it impossible to get a fair trial in the metropolitan Boston area,” he adds. “If this is upheld [on appeal], I think you can say in a practical way that there is no such thing as a change of venue [motion] in federal law anymore.”