Sometime later this year, probably a month or two from now, court-appointed lawyers for Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner will likely file a motion under Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requesting a change of venue for their client's federal murder trial. If and when they do, they will likely argue, among other things, that Loughner cannot receive a fair trial anywhere in Arizona because of prejudicial pretrial publicity following the January 8th attack that left six dead, including a federal judge, and 13 wounded, including a member of Congress.
MORE ON The Loughner Trial:
Billy House: Jared Loughner Charged by Prosecutors
Andrew Cohen: Beltway Back and Forth: The Loughner Venue Change Saga
Alex Eichler: Unabomber Lawyer to Represent Loughner
And when they make this argument, they will undoubtedly point to stories like the ones offered Tuesday night by the New York Times and the Washington Post, which both offered in graphic detail an account of the attack from law enforcement sources who characterized video surveillance tapes they've reviewed from inside the Safeway supermarket two weeks ago. The surveillance video -- more powerful to jurors than any dry signed confession ever could be -- almost certainly will be a huge part of the government's case against Loughner. It might even be Exhibit A if and when the case goes to trial. This is especially so because of the new wrinkle it has added to our knowledge about the event: Chief U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, whose murder forced the recusal of every federal trial judge in Arizona, may have died a hero, trying to save the life of Ronald Barber.
That's the sort of story, of selflessness and sacrifice, of the last full measure of devotion to public service, that stays with a person the rest of their life, up to and including jury duty. Here is part of what the Times reported:
The video, according to Richard Kastigar, the investigative and operational bureau chief of the Pima County Sheriff's Department, also reveals that Judge John M. Roll appears to have died while helping to save the life of Ronald Barber, a Giffords employees. Mr. Barber, who was near Ms. Giffords when he was shot twice, has left the hospital. Mr. Kastigar said Tuesday that the video shows Ms. Giffords standing with her back a few inches from a wall when she was shot by the gunman, who approached in 'a hurried fashion' with the gun at his side and then raised it and fired a single bullet above her eye at a range of no more than two or three feet.
Good for the reporters at both news organizations for getting the videotape story (I wrote about their stories for Politics Daily, citing both reports). The stories offer intense, new detail about what is said to have happened. They are timely. And they seem impeccably sourced. After all, who else but law enforcement officials would be in a position to see and then leak this looming evidence? And what cynical motives would such media-friendly officials possibly have for disclosing, with such speed and zeal, relevant, material information about the facts of a pending murder trial? Especially before the presiding judge calls everyone in for a conference to warn about the dangers of inappropriately trying the case through the media.