Thankfully, a change of venue for the federal trial of Demario James Atwater, one of the men charged with killing former Student Body President Eve Carson, will not be granted.
Following several attempts by defense attorneys to move Atwater’s trial out of the state, a judge dismissed the argument that the high-profile nature of the case has tainted the state-wide jury pool.
The trial will be held as originally planned in the N.C. Middle District court in Winston-Salem and is set to begin on May 3.
A change of venue motion is rarely granted, especially when the request is for the relocation of a trial to a state in which the crime was not committed.
Sure, Atwater’s Sixth Amendment rights grant him a fair trial by an impartial jury.
However, the argument that heavy media coverage of Carson’s death will inhibit every potential juror’s ability to weigh evidence objectively is nothing but legal gobbledygook.
Heavy media coverage usually goes hand-in-hand with high-profile murder cases.
The media’s job is to accurately present the facts to the public, as it has in the Carson case.
The public is free to interpret non-sensationalized information as it sees fit.
The fact that more information has been disseminated to the public than usual is in no way a reason to grant a change of venue to prevent juror bias. All you need are enough people to fill out the jury box.
As acknowledged by U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty, all the evidence of extensive media coverage only underlines the need for potential jurors to be well-screened.
And, luckily for Atwater, our judicial process allows for just that.
In addition to an extensive juror screening process, Atwater’s attorneys also have the right to reject jurors they feel might taint the jury pool, through a process known as voir dire.
Given all of the safeguards against biased jurors during the selection process, it is obvious that the coverage of Atwater’s case poses no threat to jury objectivism.
And thankfully, members of our justice system have acknowledged that.