State v. Anderson
A court may order a change in venue to another judicial district, if the defendant meets his burden of proof that, absent a change in venue, a fair and impartial trial cannot take place. As a result of a motor-vehicle collision that resulted in the deaths of two individuals, the government charged the defendant, who was driving a Milford police department cruiser, with second-degree manslaughter and reckless driving. The defendant, Jason Anderson, moved for a change of venue from the Ansonia-Milford Judicial District to the Litchfield Judicial District, to avoid the appearance of prejudice as a result of pretrial publicity; to promote judicial economy; and to prevent a mistrial. The state objected that media coverage has not been extensive, that the jury pool of 210,000 residents is large enough to find jurors who have not been exposed to media coverage, and that jurors will presumably adhere to their oaths to avoid media coverage, when trial begins. The trial court possesses the authority to grant a motion to transfer to another venue, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §51-353 and Practice Book §41-23. Courts may consider: 1.) the size and characteristics of the community; 2.) whether news articles included blatantly prejudicial information; 3.) the amount of time between the underlying incident and trial; and 4.) the jury's verdict. In a 1993 decision, State v. Crafts, the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote, "The defendant must demonstrate that the publicity was so inflammatory or inaccurate that it created a trial atmosphere utterly corrupted by press coverage." Here, the defendant's exhibits established that television Channels 3 and 8 provided news coverage. The Connecticut Post published 62 articles and the New Haven Register published 87, counting comments from readers. The Milford Media published 18 articles. Media reports were fact based. They omitted sensationalism that is likely to arouse ill will. Although a tape of the accident has been posted online, that was insufficient to establish prejudicial publicity. The defendant failed to meet his burden, to prove a presumption of prejudice required a change of venue, and the court denied the defendant's motion to change venue, without prejudice.