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Irvin v. Dowd

United States Supreme Court
366 U.S. 717 (1961)


Irvin (defendant) was suspected of a series of highly publicized murders. After Irvin was arrested, the prosecution issued press releases indicating that Irvin had admitted to the murders. After the grand jury returned an indictment, Irvin’s attorney moved for a change of venue. The venue change was granted and trial was set in an adjoining county. A second motion for venue change was denied because Indiana law only allows one change. Two more venue change motions and eight continuance motions were denied. In the months before trial, newspapers and radio with near total coverage in the trial county publicized every aspect of the investigation, Irvin’s criminal record, and even details of plea negotiations. At voir dire, 90 percent of the potential jurors asked said they believed Irvin was guilty, and the court eliminated 268 people for having a firm belief in Irvin’s guilt. Irvin was convicted and sentenced to death. Irvin petitioned for habeas corpus on the grounds that he was denied a fair trial due to prejudice caused by extensive pretrial media coverage.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Clark, J.)

Concurrence (Frankfurter, J.)

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