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Judge In Tucson Case Has Experience in High Profile Cases

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Aired 1/19/11

The defense in the case against Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner has yet to file for a change of venue. One option is San Diego, where U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns, selected to preside over the case, is based.

Judge Larry A. Burns
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Above: Judge Larry A. Burns

The defense in the case against Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner has yet to file for a change of venue. One option is San Diego, where U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns, selected to preside over the case, is based.

Judge Burns has presided over nearly every high-profile federal case in San Diego in recent years. He sentenced former Congressman Randy Cunningham for taking bribes from contractors. Burns also handled the trial of one of the contractors. And he oversaw the prosecution of Mexican drug cartel leader Javier Arrellano Felix.

Burns' colleague, federal Judge Thomas Whelan, said that experience is likely to come in handy in the case against Jared Loughner.

"He's the kind of judge who in my opinion is going to call the balls and strikes as he sees them without any regard to who the victim was or who's making the objection," Whelan said.

Judge Burns and Loughner's attorney Judy Clarke have fought cases against each other when she ran the Federal Defender's office in San Diego and he was a top prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office. Local defense lawyer Knut Johnson gave Clarke high praise.

"Judge Burns recognizes that when Judy does something, it's for a legitimate reason," Johnson said. "It's to make her client's situation better and that she plays by the rules. That knowledge of Judy is going to help a lot when he sets deadlines."

It may also help Judge Burns decide where the trial should be held. Legal experts anticipate a change of venue motion to filed in the Loughner case, a move the Justice Department says it will oppose.

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