Bill Cosby’s criminal defense team filed a motion for a change of venue out of Montgomery County for his criminal trial stemming from a sexual assault charge. Cosby was charged with a 2004 drugging and sexual assault of a Temple University employee. His attorneys are claiming that the extensive media coverage has biased potential jurors in the area, and that Cosby will not receive a fair trial. In other words, they are saying that the media coverage has led to an atmosphere which is “likely to produce prejudice” at Cosby’s trial.
Cosby’s attorneys cite numerous local and national media publications which they allege have smeared their client. The filed motion also claims that Cosby was used as a “political pawn” in the contentious District Attorney race between former DA Bruce Castor and current DA Kevin Steele. Specifically, Steel ran a 30-second ad attacking his political rival Castor for failing to prosecute Cosby.
Cosby’s motion did not recommend a new venue, but attorney Brian McMonagle asked Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill to either grant the request or hold a hearing for the change of venue. Cosby is scheduled to go to trial in June, with numerous issues still outstanding in the case. However, multiple hearings are expected ahead of the trial.
What is a Motion for Change of Venue?
There are two basic requirements that must be met before a court can hear a case. The first is jurisdiction, which refers to a court’s authority to decide legal issues that affect the rights of the parties involved, and the second is which court is the best location to hear the case (where a case may be heard).
“Venue” in a criminal case is generally defined as the court that is assigned to hear the matter. Defendants do not have the right to a county of his or her choice; venue usually relates to where the crime occurred. It is one’s constitutional right to receive a fair trial, although the ability to change a venue is not a constitutional right in itself. A defendant can request for a change of venue if there is a reasonable likelihood that he or she cannot receive a fair trial in the original venue.
Each jurisdiction has its own specific requirements for filing for a motion of change of venue. These requirements can be referred to as the rules of civil procedure. See relevant civil procedure forms for California here. Continue reading