Judge Reade — Take that Print

Gazette courts coverage guru Trish Mahaffey was kind enough to share her copy of federal Judge Linda Reade’s ruling last week denying Sholom Rubashkin’s motion to have his trial moved out of Iowa.

Attorneys for the former Agriprocessors executive, who faces numerous federal charges, argued that pretrial publicity would make it tough for him to get a fair trial.

Reade turned them down in an interesting nine-page ruling.

One key message: Why worry what newspapers write? Nobody reads that stuff anymore. From Reade’s ruling:

“Defendants Rubashkin and Agriprocessors also appear to place too much emphasis on the role of print media in contemporary society. The court declines to blindly assume that newspaper articles have so corrupted the jury pool that Defendants Rubashkin and Agriprocessors will be unable to obtain a fair trial…The role and influence of the printed newspaper in society is not the same as it was a generation ago. “

Ouch. You really know how to hurt an ink-stained dinosaur. Although tell me something I don’t know.

But don’t get too smug, bloggers and online commentariat. Reade doesn’t think you’re influencing the jury pool much either.

“It would be irresponsible for the court to categorically impute the vitriolic comments of those who post comments in online newspapers and other websites to the jury pool. The court has no way to know whether most of the comments on the Internet are written by potential jurors as opposed to minors, non-residents or other persons unable to serve on the jury. Likewise, the court has no reason to believe the comments are widely read.”

The you-can’t-prove-anybody-reads-this-stuff argment would seem to, potentially, have a big impact on change of venue requests. 

On the plus side, maybe a fractured, downsized and sliced up media will be good for our judicial system, producing jurors who don’t know anything that ‘s not considered news within their social network.

On the down side, I’ll be unemployed. But that will give me plenty of time to serve on juries.

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