“High Profile” Criminal Case = Poison in the Pool

“Bath Salts Arrests”

This was the headline, and accompanying photograph, seen after our recent hearing in the Mineral County, WV felony prosecution of John and Tonya Cozatt.  They are being prosecuted for several felonies for selling potpourri in their nutrition stores which allegedly contained “synthetic marijuana”.  The newspaper just couldn’t resist labeling the products as “Bath Salts”, which of course have been all over the national news due to incidents such as the face-eating incident in Florida.

The actual article makes it clear that the case has nothing to do with “bath salts”.  But if you look at the link I provided above under the photograph, you can see how they mentioned “Bath Salts” or “Salts” in three different areas surrounding the article.  It’s like the media labeling every gun, regardless of what it actually is, an “AK-47” or an “assault rifle.”  In the end, it poisons the jury pool.  In all of these pre-trial articles, people are seeing “bath salts, bath salts, bath salts.”  And in the national media they are seeing endless stories on people on bath salts doing crazy things.  Is it really necessary to sensationalize something that is innocuous as a nutrition store selling potpourri?  As the article notes, law enforcement had no idea the potpourri may have contained illegal compounds prior to having it analyzed by a laboratory:

Attorney John H. Bryan, representing the Cozatts, questioned Paterline about the packaging of the substance, noting that none of the packages said it was synthetic marijuana or meant to be smoked.

Bryan also asked Paterline if he could tell when he purchased the substances if they were illegal or not, and he said he could not.

Change of Venue in criminal cases – good luck

There was an article by the Associated Press published in the Charleston Gazette yesterday titled, “Venue change sought in state trooper injury case,” declaring that a change of venue is being sought for a man accused of hitting a West Virginia state trooper with his vehicle.  The defendant is also asking for the county prosecutor to be disqualified from the case.  Good luck.  The world of criminal defense is comprised of making motions, then losing them, and then trying the case and convincing at least one out of twelve jurors to hang the case.  Many people do not realize that it takes a unanimous twelve jurors to find a defendant not guilty.

In criminal defense, you always ask the judge for things, and you never get it.  You never do.  All you can do is make a record for appeal in case you lose the jury.  These motions for change of venue are always losers.  I have never received one.  I have made this motion in a small town murder trial.  I have tried this motion when representing the alleged infamous Hinton arsonist – which garnered even national media.  I can’t think of a more fitting case for a change of venue than that situation, where members of the community were demanding blood.  I can’t think of any possible situation where a fair jury would be more improbable.  But I didn’t even get it in that case.  I can’t even think of a case where they would grant one of these – unless of course you had a police officer, prosecutor or judge on trial.  That might get one.