A Federal Court Judge has this afternoon ruled against the city, which had asked for the case related to the 2006 death in custody of James Chasse to be tried outside Portland. The city had cited media articles about the case as evidence that a fair jury could not be found in Portland, and today was the date set for oral argument.

"As an example of the kind of ongoing publicity, a motion was filed on 11th January, by 19th January in the statewide newspaper we have a commentary piece by Steve Duin," said Jim Rice, an attorney for the city of Portland. "It’s the kind of non-factual reporting that I find both disturbing and prejudicial."

"It’s publicity the city has brought on by itself by the way it runs the police department, and that is just a fact of life," responded Tom Steenson, an attorney for the Chasse family. "But they have not carried the burden. The mere fact that there is publicity out there does not mean there will not be a fair trial."

"The, in my view, the pre-trial publicity is overwhelmingly hostile to the defendants in this case," said Judge Garr King, making his ruling. "There is sufficient inflammatory information out there to raise questions that prejudice exists."

But the city had not met its burden of proof to show that an impartial jury couldn't be found, said the judge. "Portland includes over 1,800,000 residents spread over 11 counties. I do not believe that conclusive presumption of prejudice can be made at this time," he said. "It’s my experience that jurors take their oath seriously, and if there is any question about a juror’s prejudice it can be inspected and challenged."

King says he intends to make use of a week-long jury selection process, during which a questionnaire will be used to determine whether jurors might be prejudiced as part of an extensive "voir dire" process, which is standard before all trials.

Judge King also pointed out that he had personally asked the 120 potential jurors in the case of Vasily Kobel vs City of Portland—which took place last December, and was won by the city—whether they knew about the Chasse case. "The jurors were surprisingly unfamiliar with the Chasse case when we picked a jury in that case," said King. "I’m hopeful that we can select an impartial jury."

King said his ruling could change "if there are inflammatory media articles, speeches, releases that I feel tip the scales," between now and the trial. "I just hope nothing occurs between now and the trial that would cause us to go off in a different direction," he said.

Chasse’s father, James Chasse senior, who bears a striking facial resemblance to his dead son, was once again present in the courtroom this afternoon in a somber dark gray suit with a hand-tied red bow tie. He sat patiently in the back of the room listening to proceedings through headphones for the hearing-impaired.