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Legally Speaking: Grilling potential jurors makes for long day in court

Day Three of jury selection in the State v. Jodi Arias case was one of the longest days the trial has seen, starting early at 9:40 a.m. and ending late at 5:45 p.m.

Some of the jurors who survived last week’s initial questioning were brought back into the courtroom in small groups ranging from five to seven.

After only a few questions from Judge Sherry Stephens about whether the jurors had seen any media coverage on the trial or if anything had changed in their circumstances from the week before, lead attorneys Juan Martinez and Kirk Nurmi started their questioning.

The majority of counsels’ questions centered on answers each juror gave in the lengthy jury questionnaire. The sealed questionnaire is at least 20 pages long with at least 56 questions all aimed at trying to get each juror’s thoughts and beliefs about, among other things, Arias, law enforcement, and the death penalty.

Both counsel were methodical and thorough in the questioning. For example, if a potential juror indicated someone in his or her family had been ever arrested, counsel dug deep into the facts and how the interaction made the juror feel now.

If a juror indicated strong feelings against the death penalty, defense lawyer Nurmi made sure he asked as many questions as possible to try to “rehabilitate” the potential juror to show that they could still be fair and impartial and follow the law, because, after all, the defense would want that person on the jury. Prosecutor Martinez would do the same for someone who supported, sometimes strongly, the death penalty.

As in all jury selections there were potential jurors who made you laugh, made your shake your head and made you think. As one juror walked into the courtroom he raised his head confidently and said, “Look at all these smiling faces!” This was in response to the audience of family members and media staring at him.

Later, this same juror indicated he had gone home and watched the Lifetime movie about Jodi Arias after the judge warned him not to last week. After being asked to step out into the hall and wait, he chose to leave.

Clearly he was not one to follow directions, even those coming from the court. Another juror seemed bound and determined to get on this jury. Every question she was asked was turned into a lengthy response trying to excuse away her answers.

I will let you in on a little secret: attorneys notice immediately those potential jurors who seem to be trying too hard.

In total, 41 jurors were questioned about their answers on the questionnaire and of those questioned, 16 were excused, leaving 25. Another juror who was not questioned was excused because of other issues. Considering there were 176 survivors from last week, there is still a ways to go. This process will continue Tuesday morning and should be just as interesting and thought-provoking as the previous day.