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Judges Refuse to Move Capitol Riot Trials Outside of D.C.

Federal judges are declining efforts by attorneys for defendants in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot cases who seek to relocate their client's trials because of potential bias and personal opinions Washington, D.C., residents have about the insurrection, the Associated Press reports. The connections that residents have to the riot highlight the challenge facing judges and attorneys choosing impartial jurors to decide the hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the insurrection - especially as lawmakers hold high-profile hearings on the incident less than a mile from the courthouse. A growing number of defendants are pushing to have their trials moved out of Washington, saying the outcome of the first trials prove that the odds are unfairly stacked against Jan. 6 defendants in the capital. “D.C. is a city that, as a whole, feels that it has been the victim of a crime,” attorneys for members and associates of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group wrote, seeking to have their trials moved to Virginia. Prosecutors and judges see no evidence that Capitol rioters can’t get a fair trial in D.C. and believe the process of weeding out biased jurors is working. Judges have consistently rejected requests to move trials, saying the capital has plenty of residents who can serve as fair jurors.

Prosecutors’ unblemished record so far in jury trials for Jan. 6 cases may speak to the strength of the evidence against the rioters, many of whom were captured on camera storming the Capitol and even bragged about their actions on social media. It’s rare for judges to move trials to a different location, even in the most high-profile cases. More than three dozen Capitol riot defendants have asked to have their trials moved out of Washington, including at least nine who filed requests in June. None has succeeded so far. In denying one such request, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said she agreed with prosecutors that there is no reason to believe that Washington’s entire population was so affected by the events of Jan. 6 that it can’t seat an impartial panel. “In any U.S. jurisdiction, most prospective jurors will have heard about the events of January 6, and many will have various disqualifying biases,” she wrote.


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