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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

James Holmes Guilty in Colorado Movie Theater Shooting

A jury has found James Holmes guilty in killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. Holmes opened fire on a crowd during a showing of The Dark Knight in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater in 2012. The jury, selected from 9,000 possible candidates and short four members who had previously been dismissed, came to the verdict after just over a day of deliberation. The jury also found Holmes guilty of attempted murder and assorted weapons charges. Jury Found the Insanity Defense Unconvincing Holmes had argued that he was insane at the time of the shooting, and it was up to the state to prove he knew the nature of the crime and could distinguish between right and wrong at the time the crime was committed. By finding Holmes guilty on all first degree murder and murder with extreme indifference charges, the jury clearly found his insanity defense unconvincing. Holmes' psychiatrist also came under fire after the shooting, and was criticized for not adequately warning law enforcement regarding Holmes' violent inclinations. Will James Holmes Face the Death Penalty? While capital punishment is available in Colorado, the state has only executed one person in the last 37 years. In this case, however, prosecutors sought the death penalty and now that Holmes has been found guilty, the court will move on to the penalty phase of his trial. During the penalty phase, attorneys from both sides will present evidence as to the proper punishment. Like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before him, Holmes will be arguing against the death penalty and will likely put his mental state at issue again. If he is not given the death penalty, he will likely be sentenced to life in prison. There are currently three people on death row in Colorado, including Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of murdering four people at a Chuck E. Cheese in 1994. Related Resources: James Holmes Found Guilty of Murder in Aurora Theater Shooting Trial (ABC News) 'Dark Knight' Shooting in CO: 12 Dead, 50 Hurt (FindLaw Blotter) For James Holmes, Death Penalty is Far from a Certainty (FindLaw Blotter) Death Row Appeals: Rights and Limitations (FindLaw Blotter)
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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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