Change of Venue is Rare in Birmingham Criminal Cases

Tags: Criminal Defense

Birmingham criminal defense lawyers know that it can be tough to convince a judge that a change of venue is necessary.


However, in some of the most high-profile criminal cases – particularly Birmingham homicides – it can be absolutely necessary to ensuring certain defendants receive a fair trial.

One prime example is the case of the Auburn University shooting, in which six men were shot, three of them fatally. The defense attorney for the accused has made no secret of the fact that she intends to move for a change of venue.

This is an appropriate and logical step in this case, as two of those who were slain were football players at the school. Football is so deeply ingrained in the culture of the surrounding area of Lee County, it’s affectionately referred to as “Tiger Country. ” It will be especially difficult to seat a jury with no prejudice against the defendant who not only allegedly took young lives, but also arguably harmed their beloved home team.

Rarely will you see a change of venue request in cases that don’t involve murder.

It’s almost always going to be requested in what is called a pretrial motion, meaning it will be something your attorney requests before the trial starts.

Some of the reasons why a change of venue might be considered include:

1. Pretrial publicity. This is what the attorney for the accused Auburn shooter will likely be basing her motion on. This has to do with the jury pool becoming tainted due to media reports that have saturated the area prior to trial. What you’re trying to avoid are preconceived notions or hostilities.

2. Improper venue. A defense lawyer may argue that the court in which the case is being heard is not proper either because the crime wasn’t committed there or because of some other procedural issue.

3. Interests of justice. This encompasses a host of different factors, but may involve the location of witnesses, certain travel costs, etc.

In the end, it’s the judge who decides whether a venue change is appropriate. As mentioned before, a change of venue can be a tough sell to a judge. That’s why having an experienced criminal defense lawyer – one who can effectively argue on your behalf – is critical.

In this case, the attorney for the 22-year-old defendant even reportedly had concerns for his safety at the local jail, given the ferocity with which the town – incarcerated or not – embraces its football team.

In this case, police haven’t released many details. What we have been able to piece together from various media reports is that it appears the dispute had nothing to do with football, but rather erupted in a disagreement regarding a woman.

The defendant’s attorney stopped short of saying that she might argue self defense, but indicated there was certainly more to the story than the one side that had been printed and played out by the local and national press.

It remains to be seen whether the judge in this case will grant it. Likely, it will also depend on the level of ongoing coverage in the case, given that it probably isn’t likely to go to trial anytime in the next 12 months.


Additional Resources:

Accused Auburn gunman’s attorney to seek change of venue, By Jim Mustian, The Ledger-Enquirer

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