Jacksonville, FL - The second day of jury selection is now underway but not without some literal fire-works.
The fire alarm was triggered shortly after the potential jurors for the Michael Dunn trial were sworn in. I evacuated down two out of the four flights of stairs before police said it was safe to head back because it was a false alarm. Apparently, a smoke detector in the kitchen was triggered- what some of the court employees were saying is a consistent problem.
The new group of 30 sworn in comes from a second group of 100 jurors that were called to the Courthouse today to be screened to potentially serve on the jury for the trial of Michael Dunn. That’s in addition to the 100 person jury pool that was screened Monday. Between a mix of people screened yesterday and this morning, all parties have agreed on a 62 person pool.
Judge Russell Healey told the pool he expects jury selection will go in to Wednesday. He says the trial could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon or Thursday. Healey says his role now takes more of a back seat in selection, as attorneys use a limited number of “strikes” to eliminate jurors for any reason they choose or petition to eliminate for a certain cause. Those claiming potential hardship based on the sequestration of the jury, or those claiming to have an opinion already formed on the case have already been screened.
A total 45 people have been excused heading in to this final phase of seating the 12 juror and 4 alternate panel. Individual questioning is getting underway to whittle the 62 person pool down to 16.
The jurors filled out questionnaires covering some basic information including how long they’ve lived in Duval, they’re job, if they have children and if they or someone close to them has been the victim of a crime or accused of a crime. The pool is predominantly women, with only about 14 men. Otherwise there is a wide mix of age, profession, marital status, etc. Further details are expected to emerge along with questioning coming the rest of Tuesday and into Wednesday.
It is unclear how many of the initial 130 jurors screened were male and female because many were eliminated after filling out their first questionnaire so I never saw them or heard their voice to determine how many were eliminated.
Another focus of Tuesday was the continued fight by several media outlets for more access to the courtroom. Per an agreement reached by a media committee tasked with planning for all the audio and visual questions for this trial, the media were to be put in a separate overflow room during jury selection and only provided an audio feed which is not recordable. During the trial, both audio and visual streams are available and recordable, and there is a certain number of seats allotted for media use in the courtroom.
Technically speaking, the challenge of the first day was that attorneys would walk from the microphones providing the audio feed to the media room, making it difficult to know what questions were being posed to potential jurors. One Tuesday, the attorneys were hooked up to microphones on their clothing, providing a more consistent audio stream. Upon further pressing, a video feed was also streamed to the media room in order to provide information on the general tone of the room or how the attorneys were physically acting toward potential jurors. The video does not show the potential jurors in order to protect their identities. We are also not allowed to record the audio, which could potentially give identifying information on the juror.
The outlets petitioned further, however, and a few reporters were given access to the jury room itself. Four will also be allowed in for jury selection tomorrow, as well as eight people chosen by the defense and eight chosen by the state.
WOKV was not a part of the ongoing petition to gain access to the courtroom. Our primary concern is giving you all the important information to tell the story. Once the video stream was provided to the overflow room, we felt all needed resources were in place.
I’m in the media workspace adjacent to the courtroom following the latest developments. You can get instant updates on Twitter (@NewsAndNom and @WOKVNews).