Wednesday marked the end of the first round of jury selection in State v. Jodi Arias.
Approximately 176 potential jurors, whom I affectionately refer to as “survivors,” now have to complete the juror questionnaire and return for small group questioning. At the very end, 16-18 jurors will be sworn in to decide whether Arias will receive the death penalty.
This jury selection started with four panels of 100 jurors each. Each panel was brought up to judge Sherry Stephens’ courtroom to answer a handful of questions.
Seating in the courtroom was completely taken up by the potential jurors, Tanisha (Travis Alexander’s sister) and her husband. No members of the public were allowed in and the media sat in a separate room off to the side of the courtroom.
Throughout the questioning each juror held a purple sign in their hand that had their “number” on it. If a particular juror had a verbal response to a question they were called upon by their number and not by their name. Since the proceedings are recorded, each potential juror had to speak into a hand-held microphone if they needed to answer a question.
Once the potentials were brought into the courtroom they were sworn in and seated. At that point Judge Stephens introduced herself, the court staff and the lead attorneys, Juan Martinez and Kirk Nurmi.
Each of them introduced their team and Arias herself. Even though the majority had heard of the players, no one indicated they had a personal relationship with anyone who was introduced.
After the introductions, each panel was asked the same set of questions, starting with whether anyone had any trouble hearing the proceedings and whether anyone did not speak English.
Next came the big question, which was essentially this, “has anyone heard of this case?” As you can imagine, the majority of people raised their hands. Believe it or not, there were actually people that did not raise their hand.
The next was the million dollar question and it went something like this, “could you decide this case based only on the evidence presented in the courtroom” and oftentimes the judge followed it up with something akin to “could you set aside what you have heard in the media.”
Well, you guessed it, there were many that could not. In fact, approximately 25 percent of the 400 were excused because they admitted they could not be fair and impartial. Surprisingly, I only recall two jurors who stated they had “strong” feelings about the death penalty.
The next questions were whether the potentials could not stay away from the news and social media and whether they had any conflicts with the trial calendar or it would cause a hardship. Considering the court has this retrial scheduled out to just before Christmas, many had conflicts.
At the end of the day, 176 out of 400 were left and will move on to the next round.
Many have asked me, “will they be able to get a jury?”
To that I say yes, it just might take some time.