Feds resist moving Loughner trial to San Diego
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The U.S. Justice Department said Monday it would resist any effort to try the man blamed for the carnage in Tucson in San Diego.
“The Department plans to bring the case in Arizona and will oppose any change in venue motions,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said this morning in remarks reported in The Washington Post.
Law enforcement sources told the Post the trial of Jared Lee Loughner could be sent to San Diego because of pre-trial publicity in Arizona. The case could also be moved because judges in Arizona have recused themselves since one of their own, John Roll, died in the Jan. 8 shooting.
Larry Burns, the judge appointed to the case, and Judy Clarke, Loughner's defense attorney, are both based in San Diego.
The shooting killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who is recovering at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
It is “extraordinarily unusual” for a change of venue motion to be granted in federal court, David Steinberg, a professor of law at the San Diego- based Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said in an interview. But there is a strong argument for moving this one.
The change of venue would eliminate some grounds for appealing the verdict, Steinberg said.
“If Loughner is tried in Tucson, there is a reason to appeal. If you move it to San Diego, you effectively eliminate that issue,” he said. He said it would be easier outside Arizona to find jurors who know little about the case.
“I know it sounds strange, but you can find such people,” Steinberg said. “People who have been working overseas, people who don't read the newspaper — there are such people — or students who have been working on a dissertation.”
The charges the 22-year-old Loughner faces include attempted assassination of a member of Congress and two counts of murder of federal employees.
He is being held at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution outside Phoenix, where he is reported to spend 23 hours a day alone in his cell.