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Duluth police officer’s trial delayed over venue request | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Published March 02, 2013, 12:00 AM

Duluth police officer’s trial delayed over venue request

The trial of a Duluth police officer accused of assaulting a man while he was on duty has been pushed back to give the officer’s lawyer more time to try to show that it shouldn’t take place in Duluth.

By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune

The trial of a Duluth police officer accused of assaulting a man while he was on duty has been pushed back to give the officer’s lawyer more time to try to show that it shouldn’t take place in Duluth.

At a hearing in State District Court in Duluth on Friday, Judge John DeSanto didn’t rule on the change-of-venue request for Officer Richard Jouppi’s trial on misdemeanor fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct stemming from a Sept. 21 incident at the Duluth Detoxification Center. Jouppi is accused of hitting Anthony Jackson, 50, several times after helping to bring him to the center, and after Jackson first struck him.

The scene was captured on video that was released by Duluth police. It has been shown frequently on local TV newscasts.

Citing what he called prejudicial publicity in Duluth, Jouppi’s attorney Frederic Bruno wants the trial moved, perhaps to Washington or Pine counties, or — failing that — to one of the other St. Louis County district courts in Hibbing or Virginia.

In his arguments, Bruno told DeSanto that the trial should be moved because of “the viral way that this thing has gone across the town and the state and the country.”

Bruno cited the number of “hits” on the Google Internet browser, which peaked at 48,000 and was still at 31,000 stories as of Friday. Most of the stories were generated by Duluth media, Bruno said. Moreover, many allowed comments and the comments were “99.9 percent negative” toward Jouppi, he said.

Bruno blamed the Duluth Police Department for releasing the video even before charges were filed and for, in his words, firing Jouppi.

“Here in Duluth, everyone knows he was fired summarily within days,” Bruno said.

The city of Duluth has never officially confirmed that Jouppi was fired, saying the grievance process has to be completed. But Duluth police have made it clear they don’t want Jouppi to remain on the force.

Special prosecutor Shawn Reed responded that Bruno hadn’t met the legal requirements to justify a change of venue. Media reports about the case have been factual, he said.

“Publicity does not automatically warrant a change of venue,” Reed said. “Factual news reports are insufficient to establish prejudice.”

Moreover, potential jurors in Washington and Pine counties also have access to the Internet and may have read the same stories about the incident. If there is a problem, moving the trial wouldn’t address it, Reed argued.

Instead he suggested potential jurors be interviewed individually in what is known as the voir dire process. That way, Reed said, they wouldn’t be influenced by opinions of other prospective jurors.

DeSanto noted that Bruno hadn’t presented all of the evidence for a change of venue allowed by Minnesota Court Rules, such as testimony or affidavits from individuals or public opinion surveys that might suggest a fair trial would be imperiled. DeSanto asked Bruno if he wanted time to do that.

Bruno said he would, and that he’d like to consult the National Jury Project, which provides services to trial lawyers. He asked for an additional 30 days.

That would be too much time, Reed argued. “The state has an interest in moving this case forward,” he said. “Thirty days is excessive.”

DeSanto gave Bruno until March 29 to offer any additional arguments. If Bruno comes up with anything, Reed will have until April 19 to offer a response. DeSanto said he will rule on the change of venue within 30 days after all of the evidence has been submitted.

Before that, DeSanto himself responded to one point Bruno had raised.

Holding the trial in Duluth might bring “a little bit of a public safety concern while the trial is taking place, there being no security in this courthouse,” Bruno said.

That’s not the case, DeSanto said. “We don’t lack security in this courthouse,” he said. “We have security officers. We have a security plan here. We are very sincere about security.”

Bruno quickly rose to his feet and said he hadn’t meant to disparage security personnel in the courthouse. “There’s no metal detectors, is what I meant.”

DeSanto answered: “Well, we will have them in this courtroom if the court deems it necessary.”

– See more at: Duluth police officer’s trial delayed over venue request | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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