Norwich — Judge Arthur C. Hadden denied a request by former Norwich patrolman Kenneth Nieves to move his upcoming trial to a different venue as jury selection got under way Tuesday in New London Superior Court.
Nieves, 46, is accused of having a sexual relationship, while on duty, with an underage girl from September 2003 to January 2005. In taking his case to trial, he rejected the state's offer to plead guilty in exchange for a one-year-prison sentence, 10 years of probation and registration as a sexual offender.
Nieves' attorney, Charles Tiernan III, had filed a motion last week seeking a change of venue for the trial. Tiernan wrote that Nieves could not receive a fair trial in the judicial district where he worked as a police officer from 2002 to 2011 because the jury pool is likely to contain individuals who had been questioned, ticketed or arrested by Nieves or his fellow officers. Tiernan claimed also that pretrial publicity in the case was prejudicial and asked that the case be moved to Middletown or New Haven.
In objecting to the change of venue, prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman noted the case is unremarkable compared to others that are tried here and that Tiernan, in his motion, had cited several high profile murder cases involving the deaths of witnesses. She said also that the alleged victim in the Nieves case, who is now an adult, is also a police officer. The woman, identified only by her initials, is expected to testify at the trial.
Hadden said the defense failed to show it is impossible to receive a fair and impartial trial. He said the news coverage of the case has been in line with other crimes that have been tried at the so-called Part A court for major crimes. He said the voir dire process, which involves individual questioning of potential jurors, would be sufficient to determine whether the jurors have been prejudiced against Nieves.
When the first pool of potential jurors was seated in the courtroom, only three people raised their hands when the judge asked if they had any knowledge of the case, "direct or indirect." Hadden said he would take it up with them when they returned to the courtroom for individual questioning.
Over the next several days, the attorneys will select six regular jurors and two alternates. The trial is scheduled to take place from Oct. 22 to Oct. 26.