The Sixth Amendment guarantees that the accused in all criminal prosecutions shall enjoy the right to trial “by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” With regard to venue, federal prosecutors effectively control the ability to select (often from among multiple possibilities) the district in which to bring an indictment.
In certain high-profile cases, the prosecutor’s unfettered geographic discretion can conflict with the equally important guarantee, embedded in the Sixth Amendment, of an impartial jury. These tensions arise in cases typically involving extensive media coverage leading up to a trial. A defendant may be widely despised because of the impact that his or her crime had on the region. Or the case may involve particularly sensational, headline-grabbing allegations or images of a videotaped confession or perp walk that are indelibly imprinted in the minds of viewers.