Defense lawyers for Frank Robert James, the man accused of committing a mass shooting on a New York City subway train, are trying to move his trial to an Illinois federal court. They argue that the substantial law enforcement and media attention on the incident prejudiced him at trial by tainting the local NYC jury pool.
New Yorkers learned of the incident from the news and through their smartphones on the NYC Emergency Management system, documents stated. The Sunset Park neighborhood was locked down, and schools in many Brooklyn neighborhoods were ordered to shelter in place.
From documents filed Monday:
On April 13, 2022, at 10:21 A.M., emergency alarms rang on every New Yorker’s smartphone, altering millions of people: “WANTED FOR BROOKLYN SUBWAY SHOOTING: FRANK JAMES, BLACK MALE, 62 YEARS OLD. ANY INFORMATION CAN BE DIRECTED TO NYPD TIPS AT 800-577-TIPS (8477). MORE INFO & PHOTO: NYC.GOV/NOTIFYNYC.”6 At 1:10 P.M., Frank James called the Crime Stoppers tip line, stating that he had seen his face on the news and seeking to turn himself in, providing his location. Arriving officers arrested him without incident.
Mayor Eric Adams announced the arrest, the defense wrote.
The defense argued that authorities basically recruited the potential jury pool to be “citizen-investigators” in finding James. In their own words:
Here, New York government officials drafted the entire potential jury pool of the Eastern District of New York into service as citizen-investigators in their hunt for Frank James, and then assured them “we” got the right perpetrator: Mr. James. The news media and politicians continually published inflammatory and inadmissible information about Mr. James, close in time to the intended start of his trial. These efforts combined to produce a jury pool that harbors decidedly negative, often incorrect, and fixed views about him, and, without hearing any evidence, is overwhelmingly inclined to find him guilty despite his presumption of innocence.
All this attention damaged James’ chances of finding a fair and impartial jury in the Eastern District of New York, where his case is playing out for terrorist attack and other violence against a mass transportation system and vehicle carrying passengers and employees, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
“Mr. Frank James cannot receive a fair trial in the Eastern District of New York,” the defense wrote. “Prospective jurors in the Eastern District of New York have significantly prejudged Mr. James’s guilt, admit that they will vote ‘guilty’ if serving on his jury without having heard a single witness, and are decidedly more hostile toward him than prospective jurors in a demographically comparable District. Pervasive pretrial publicity has fomented prejudice against Mr. James. Together, these factors warrant a presumption of prejudice, preventing the empanelment of an impartial jury.”
Trial is scheduled for Feb. 27, 2023.
James is charged as the person who opened fire in April 2022 on a Manhattan-bound N train at the 36th Street station in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. He injured 10 people, setting off two smoke grenades on subway car, authorities said. Thirteen people received injuries from smoke inhalation, falling down, or panic, Chief of Detectives James Essig told reporters at the time. No one died.
James was easily traceable by what authorities say they recovered when responding to reports of gunfire and smoke-emitting devices.
“Searches of the scene of the attack revealed two bags, both of which were recovered from the scene,” FBI agent Jorge Alvarez wrote in a 10-page affidavit released back in April. “The first bag contained, among other items, a firearm, a plastic container containing gasoline, a torch, a U-Haul key, and multiple bank cards. The firearm was a Glock 17 pistol manufactured in Austria.”
Read the motion to change venue here.
[Image via YouTube/screengrab]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]