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Colorado judge considers venue change in sexual assault case

The media can stoke a fire that burns a Boulder defendant charged with sexual offenses. Pre-trial screening is designed to prevent juror prejudice. In some high profile sex crime cases, a fair trial is guaranteed only by moving a trial outside a community tainted by preconceived opinions.

A Colorado judge delayed a ruling on a change of venue for the trial of an ex-health care worker, who pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two nursing home residents. The trial recently opened with jury selection involving more than 100 possible candidates. Screening results were expected to help the judge determine whether local jurors could come to a non-prejudiced verdict despite heavy, local media coverage.

The man on trial is accused of the sexual assaults of two Broomfield Skilled Nursing patients. The women, ages 59 and 73, were patients during the nursing aide’s short term of employment, beginning in January 2013 and ending with an August arrest. An initial report of sexual assault in July 2013 was dismissed by nursing home officials, after an internal investigation produced no evidence to support the charge.

The employer contacted police after a second assault was reported in August. Authorities charged the nursing home assistant with multiple counts of unlawful sexual contact and sexual assault on at-risk victims. Prosecutors unsuccessfully attempted to pin a third nursing home assault on the defendant, involving a 93-year-old female dementia patient, but dropped the investigation for lack of evidence.

The man’s attorney argued the defendant’s limited understanding of English compromised the accused man’s rights. The judge denied the lawyer’s request to have the defendant’s post-arrest statements stricken from trial. An interpreter was available for the defendant during court proceedings.

Every defendant has the right to a fair trial, but not every defendant knows his or her rights. A defense attorney is the armor that provides protection, no matter what allegations a defendant faces.

Source: Daily Camera, "Trial in Broomfield nursing home sex assault case starts today," Megan Quinn, July 7, 2014.

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