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State v. Pryce

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

April 17, 2018

State of Nebraska, appellee,
v.
Brittney Pryce, appellant.

         1. Venue: Appeal and Error. A motion for change of venue is addressed to the discretion of the trial judge, whose ruling will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.

         2. ___: ___.A trial court abuses its discretion in denying a motion to change venue when a defendant establishes that local conditions and pretrial publicity make it impossible to secure a fair and impartial jury.

         3. Presumptions: Jurors: Due Process. Adverse pretrial publicity can create a presumption of prejudice in a community such that the jurors' claims that they can be impartial should not be believed. But juror exposure to information about a defendant's prior convictions or to news accounts of the crime with which he is charged does not alone presumptively deprive the defendant of due process.

         4. Presumptions: Jurors. Juror partiality may be presumed only in situations where the general atmosphere in the community or courtroom is sufficiently inflammatory.

         5. Venue: Juror Qualifications: Presumptions. A court will normally not presume unconstitutional juror partiality because of media coverage unless the record shows a barrage of inflammatory publicity immediately prior to trial, amounting to a huge wave of public passion or resulting in a trial atmosphere utterly corrupted by press coverage.

         6. Venue: Due Process. Even the community's extensive knowledge about a crime or a defendant through pretrial publicity is insufficient in itself to render a trial constitutionally unfair when the media coverage consists of merely factual accounts that do not reflect animus or hostility toward the defendant.

         7. Venue. Press coverage which is factual in nature cannot serve as the basis for a change of venue.

         [25 Neb.App. 793] 8. Venue: Juror Qualifications. Under most circumstances, voir dire examination provides the best opportunity to determine whether a court should change venue.

         9. Juror Qualifications. The law does not require that a juror be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved; it is sufficient if a juror can lay aside his or her impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court.

         10. Venue: Juries: Proof. A court must evaluate several factors in determining whether the defendant has met the burden of showing that pre-trial publicity has made it impossible to secure a fair trial and impartial jury. These factors include (1) the nature of the publicity, (2) the degree to which the publicity has circulated throughout the community, (3) the degree to which venue could be changed, (4) the length of time between the dissemination of the publicity complained of and the date of the trial, (5) the care exercised and ease encountered in the selection of the jury, (6) the number of challenges exercised during voir dire, (7) the severity of the offenses charged, and (8) the size of the area from which the venire was drawn.

          Appeal from the District Court for Custer County: Karin L. Noakes, Judge. Affirmed.

          P. Stephen Potter for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Siobhan E. Duffy for appellee.

          Moore, Chief Judge, and Riedmann, Judge, and ...


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