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Boyce change of venue best for justice


Occasionally, a news story leaves me conflicted about whether to read it through the eyes of an editor, or those of a father.
The sad, ugly story of Steven Boyce is one of them.
The 21-year-old Boyce, of Shawneeland, is in a world of trouble. He is charged with manslaughter in the deaths of a family of four in a horrific crash last June. The pickup driven by Boyce slammed into the rear of a Jeep Cherokee stopped at a light on U.S. 11 at the Interstate 81 interchange at Stephenson. Police say the impact triggered a fire that caused the deaths of Amanda and Mark Roe, along with their sons, Caleb, 11, and Tyler, 4.
Boyce, who suffered minor injuries, also is charged with drunken driving and underage possession of alcohol (he was 20 at the time of the crash). The indictment against Boyce says his blood-alcohol content was 0.33 percent -- four times the legal limit for a driver in Virginia. The word "soused" is inadequate -- that level of intoxication is on the threshold of fatal alcohol poisoning.

On Wednesday, Boyce's attorney petitioned Frederick County Circuit Court to have his trial on the charges moved out of the area, citing the high level of media attention the case has received. The motion says The Northern Virginia Daily has carried 17 stories about the crash and Boyce's criminal case; The Winchester Star 19 stories; and TV3, the local ABC affiliate, 13 stories.

There's no claim in the motion that anyone got the stories wrong -- just that the coverage has inflamed the passions of the likely pool of jurors who would hear the case in Frederick County. It also refers to online commentary about the case that suggests Boyce has become the target of "anger, hatred and frustration" in the community.

Here's how the editor in me sees it: The case should be tried in Frederick County.

For one thing, local juries should mete out justice for local crimes. That's a foundation stone for our entire legal system. Trials shouldn't be moved without overwhelming cause.

The editor in me also knows a change of venue just makes it harder for reporters to do their jobs. Distance will complicate the logistics of covering what could be a lengthy and complex trial.

That is hardly a compelling priority for the court, but it's a big factor when planning coverage of a major story.

On the other hand, here's how the dad in me sees it: If I had a child facing this kind of trouble, I'd want the court to take every measure possible to ensure a fair trial. Boyce would be just another defendant, although one charged with a particularly ghastly crime, for jurors hearing the case in Culpeper or Staunton. No news coverage, no blog posts, no chatter in the grocery store will have colored their ability to render a fair verdict.

That's why, at the end of the debate between the editor and the dad, I suppose father knows best.

The Roe family deserves justice, too. It shouldn't be tainted by any hint that Boyce got anything less than a fair trial.

• Bob Wooten is the managing editor of the Daily. Contact him at 800-296-5137 or at bwooten@nvdaily.com.




2 Comments



The facts are the facts, no matter where the case is heard.

Very true Beverly. But don't see how the courts will not find a tainted jury in this area. Would be impossible if you think about it.



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