A jury for Adam Longoria’s capital murder trial should be selected by 9 a.m. Thursday, when the State expects to deliver its opening statement, a judicial administrator said.
Longoria, 38, is charged with the first-degree murder of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt following an attempted sexual assault on the Great Bend girl in August of 2010. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks, and jury selection was expected to take two to four days.
First, a panel of 42 potential jurors must be filled. By the end of the day on Tuesday, only six more people were needed for the panel, said Ron Keefover, chief information officer with the Office of Judicial Administration. During the first part of jury selection, attorneys for the defense and the prosecution interviewed prospective jurors in groups of 18, all sworn to answer questions truthfully.
These potential jurors had already received and filled out questionnaires, and it was no surprise that most of them had some knowledge of the case. But prosecuting attorney Kevin O’Connor and defense attorney Tim Frieden and their colleagues took nothing for granted.
“Who hasn’t heard of this case?” O’Connor asked the first 18 potential jurors. “No one is responding,” he said for the benefit of the court reporter.
“We call it jury selection, but its actually jury de-selection,” O’Connor commented a few minutes later. “Some people would be good jurors, but not in this particular case.”
He reminded everyone that this is a capital murder case, but the death penalty is not an option in the case. “You don’t handle the sentence,” he told potential jurors.
Over and over, he asked if they could uphold an oath as jurors to consider only the evidence presented at trial, and if they understood that Longoria does not have to prove his innocence. The prosecution has the burden of proving its allegations. “Would you be the type of juror that you would want to have if you were a defendant in a criminal case?” O’Connor asked each person.
Some people said they already had an opinion about the defendant’s guilt or innocence. “You can have an opinion,” O’Connor said. “You may have a strongly held opinion. Are you willing to set it aside and listen to all of the evidence?”
Defense attorney Frieden got more specific about where people had gotten their information about this case, and asked if any of them had attended the large community vigil for Alicia DeBolt, or commented on the case on the Internet.
“How many think what you’ve heard has some reliability?” he asked. “Because you formed an opinion, you might not be a good juror on this case. If you’ve followed somewhat the media — it’s kind of unfair to say to you, ‘Well, set aside those things and be a clean slate.’”
Frieden asked prospective jurors to search within themselves. “If we (the defense) have got to prove something to you, you can’t be an impartial juror.”
Great Bend High School government/civics teacher Dan Eyestone and some of his students attended portions of the jury selection in the morning and afternoon. The attorneys often commented that an actual trial is quite different from anything shown in a TV courtroom drama.
“Jury selection is never shown on Law and Order,” O’Connor joked, “because it’s just too exciting for the viewing public.”