A jury was selected Monday for LaVeta D. Miller’s trial in Barton County District Court. Miller has entered a plea of not guilty to two counts of theft by deception.
The state alleges that about $110,000 was stolen from the Honor Flight program, intended to give World War II veterans expense-paid trips to see their national monument in Washington, D.C. The defendant is the former director of Central Prairie RC&D, once based in Great Bend. She was in charge of Central Prairie Honor Flights, which raised nearly $1.2 million for veterans’ trips between 2008 and 2012. Flights were halted in 2012, however, and that October, Miller was charged after money went missing from the group’s account. Miller remains free on bond.
District Judge Ron Svaty is presiding over the case. The prosecutor is Barton County Attorney Douglas Mathews and the defense attorney is Robert Anderson.
A full week has been set aside for the trial, but the attorneys have indicated they expect to be finished before Friday.
The jury selection was expected to wrap up Monday evening, and attorneys will make their opening statements Tuesday morning.
During the selection process, prospective jurors were reminded that the state has the burden of proof and that Miller is presumed innocent. It will be up to the jury to determine whether or not the prosecution has proven its case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Anderson asked that anyone who could not show “100 percent impartiality” speak up.
It was noted that it has taken two and a half years for this case to come to trial. Mathews read a list of 43 potential witnesses for the prosecution, and possible jurors were asked whether they knew any of them. Attorneys were also interested in the jury pool members’ military service, familiarity with accounting procedures and attitude toward law enforcement.
Those in the jury pool were also quizzed about what TV shows they regularly watch, including crime and courtroom shows, and what they and their spouses do for a living.
By 4:25 p.m., all panelists had been questioned and 28 people were chosen as finalists. Judge Svaty said it would take about an hour for the attorneys to go over their notes; each side is allowed to remove seven people from the jury pool. They concluded the day by choosing 14 people to serve on the jury. Two will be alternates, in case one of the 12 is unable to complete his or her service, but no one will know who the alternate jurors are until it is time for them to begin deliberating the case.