Published October 10. 2012 4:00AM
Former Norwich patrolman Kenneth Nieves flattered himself by concluding that his notoriety was of such magnitude that it would be impossible to find a jury of local men and women untainted by the publicity of the allegations of sexual assault he faces. Mr. Nieves' defense attorney, Charles Tiernan III, asked the judge in the case to move the trial elsewhere, claiming only a change of venue would assure a fair trial.
File that motion under ridiculous.
Rest assured, Mr. Nieves, thousands of prospective jurors in southeastern Connecticut have never heard about your case, while many others who may have briefly read about the matter quickly forgot details. In trying to make the case for a change of venue, Mr. Tiernan cited much higher profile cases involving infamous murder suspects. The charges against Mr. Nieves, while certainly quite serious, have received moderate coverage by comparison.
Judge Arthur C. Hadden made the right decision Tuesday when he quickly denied the request for the change of venue and moved ahead with jury selection in New London Superior Court. The judge correctly noted that in their questioning of prospective jurors during the jury selection process, lawyers can determine if any are prejudiced against the defendant. Nieves argued that because he worked as a local police officer from 2002 to 2011, potential jurors he or his fellow officers once questioned, ticketed or arrested could harbor ill will. But disclosing such prejudice is why would-be jurors are questioned, under oath, before their selection or rejection.
Mr. Nieves, 46, is charged with three counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of risk of injury to a minor. Between September 2003 and January 2005 he allegedly had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, while on duty.
All defendants are entitled to their day in court, at which the burden rests with the state to prove guilt. But victims, their families and the public are also entitled to hear the evidence without the undue burden of traveling great distances. Mr. Nieves will get his fair trial.