A Southern California federal court judge was tapped to takeover the murder case of Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old accused of killing six people and injuring 14 outside a Tucson Safeway over the weekend.
Because the Tucson region's U.S. District Court chief judge, John Roll, was killed in the rampage, his fellow jurists recused themselves in order to avoid the appearance of bias.
Reacting to the appointment of San Diego U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns, and to the involvement of two Southern California defense attorneys in the case, experts said it was possible the trial could be moved to San Diego.
As it stands, the case could mark a reunion for Burns and Judy Clarke, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The two faced off against each other in San Diego federal court in the late '80s and early '90s when he was a federal prosecutor and she was the federal defenders' boss.
Clarke is joining fellow San Diegan Mark Flemming to form Loughner's defense team.
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She has indicated she might request a change of venue, ostensibly to avoid so-called tainted jury pools in Tucson exposed to news coverage of Saturday's violence.
University of San Diego law prof Shaun Martin tells the U-T:
"There was a decent chance that this would be moved even before Judge Burns was assigned to the case. Now that he has it, the chances of it being heard in San Diego are a lot higher."
Judge Alex Kozinski, the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals chief judge, picked Burns for the gig. The Union-Tribune states that many U.S. judges expressed interested in the job.