Four Ex-Police Officers to be Tried in Houston

Media attention to a particular case will rarely justify a change of venue.  For instance, today Harris County District Judge Rueben Guerrero held that four former Houston Police Officers can be prosecuted for official oppression in Harris County.  The former officers are accused of brutally beating a 15 year old robbery suspect, and the the case has received widespread local media attention because the beating was caught on videotape.  Local activist Quanell X obtained a copy of the tape and distributed it to the media.

In Gonzalez v. State of Texas, 222 S.W.3d 446 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007), the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that in order for a defendant to get a change of venue based upon media attention he or she must show that the “publicity was pervasive, prejudicial, and inflammatory.”  The court rejected the notion that just because a case has received considerable media coverage, that coverage has prejudiced a defendant’s right to have a fair trial.

Given the status of the law, a motion for change of venue often evolves into a numbers game.  In terms of population, the bigger the county, the more likely it is for the defendant to be able to find twelve impartial jurors to hear his case.  In theory, press attention in smaller counties would more easily poison the jury pool, than would press attention in larger counties.  That seemed to be Judge Guerero’s argument today in his ruling on the defendants’ motions.  The hearing saw the appearance and testimony of both Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and Police Chief Charles McClelland, both of whom stated they believed the four men would be able to get a fair trial here in Houston.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, you need to hire an experienced lawyer to fight for your rights.  Call the Law Office of The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today for a free consultation.