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due process

A Week In Review: Same Sex Marriage, Charleston, and Human Worth

Recently there have been a whirlwind of monumental shifts in our country,  and although this blog is focused on the very specific goal of highlighting and promoting women in the criminal defense field, I feel compelled to discuss these events. By far, the most powerful among them was the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges, and the related cases that held that same-sex marriage is a guaranteed Constitutional right.  At first glance this case appears to be about marriage, but in reality it sheds light on much deeper issues of human rights.  This case was about equality and human worth – as Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist from the New York Times, so eloquently stated in Our Weddings Our Worth; “It was about worth. From the highest of this nation’s perches, in the most authoritative of this nation’s voices, a majority of justices told a minority of Americans that they’re normal and that they belong — fully, joyously and with cake.” This was not the only significant case ruling this week. The day before the same-sex marriage ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.  Otherwise known as Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act provides healthcare to all Americans. This is yet another huge statement about how we strive to see worth and value in every citizen, by assuring them access to medical care. There was also the memorial for the horrific shooting in Charleston, and the video of President Obama delivering a powerful eulogy that moved our nation. Hopefully his words serve to heal some of the pain caused by the hatred and bigotry behind that senseless crime.  This event forces us to remember that prejudice and bigotry are alive and that we must continue fighting to assure that every person is treated equally and with value regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation. Lastly, it would be negligent to not mention that the Supreme Court also issued a ruling on Friday relevant to criminal defense in Johnson v. United States.  The case determined that imposing an increased sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) residual clause was a violation of due process due to the fact the clause was unconstitutionally vague. As criminal defense attorneys we, more than most, understand fighting and struggling for others to see the worth and value in every citizen.  Our clients are often society’s most hated and disregarded citizens.  At the core of what we do is the belief that a person is more than the worst thing that they have done in their life and that they have worth beyond a criminal act.  The theme that rings loud and clear this past week is a theme we appreciate and have to value.  When our nation demonstrates compassion and understanding in the way that it has this past week, we are all better for it. The post A Week In Review: Same Sex Marriage, Charleston, and Human Worth appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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When Can You Get a Change of Venue for a Criminal Trial?

The Boston Herald reported today that the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given the judge in charge of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case until 5 p.m. tomorrow to rule on a change of venue request. This is apparently the third change of venue request Tsarnaev's attorneys have filed with Judge George A. O'Toole. The defense wants the trial conducted in a different state, claiming that Tsarnaev wouldn't be able to get a fair trial in Massachusetts. So when can a defendant move for a change of venue? Fairness and Impartiality A "venue" is the geographic location where a court proceeding is held. In Tsarnaev's case, that venue is the District of Massachusetts, a federal judicial district that encompasses the whole state. (Some states are divided into more judicial districts, depending on how populous the state is.) The Constitution affords a criminal defendant the right to a fair and impartial trial, which includes jurors who haven't already made up their minds about the defendant's guilt or innocence before ever seeing any evidence in court. If no impartial jurors -- or not very many -- can be found in the venue where the crime occurred, then the trial can be moved to a place where impartial jurors can be found. Tsarnaev's lawyers claimed that there's no way he could receive a fair trial in the same district where such a notorious crime occurred. The most recent motion for a change of venue, filed January 22, supported that claim with questionnaires completed by over 1,300 prospective jurors, 68 percent of whom already believe Tsarnaev is guilty, and 65 percent of whom claim a "connection or expressed allegiance to the people, places, and/or events at issue in the case." What Are the Rules for a Venue Change? The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure give two reasons for moving a criminal trial to another district, including a district in another state. These are: If the defendant can't obtain a "fair and impartial" trial in the district; or For the convenience of the parties, victims, witnesses, or "in the interest of justice." When a venue change is granted because of a perceived lack of fairness and impartiality, it's often because the crime alleged was incredibly newsworthy. For example, the 2009 criminal trial against Johannes Mehserle, the Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for killing Oscar Grant, an unarmed train rider, was moved from Oakland, California, to Los Angeles after a judge determined Mehserle couldn't get a fair trial in Oakland. Of course, moving a trial to a different place can be controversial. The trial of the LAPD officers accused of beating Rodney King in 1991 was moved from Los Angeles County to nearby Ventura County after a judge determined the officers couldn't get a fair trial. Ventura County, however, was predominantly white, leading to speculation that the officers wouldn't have been acquitted in a more racially mixed county. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Making the Case for a Change of Venue in Tsarnaev Trial (The Boston Globe) Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Criminal Complaint Filed in Federal (Not Military) Court (FindLaw's Courtside) Boston Bombing Anniversary: A Legal Update (FindLaw's Blotter)
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