Tough Jury Selection in Long Case Due to Pre-Trail Exposure
Source: Lubbock Co. Sheriff
The case of Callie Long has been in the news for more than a year, and many people have heard of Long or Brett Walrath, who she allegedly killed in a drunk driving accident in August 2003. The jury selection process took more than seven hours today, and nailing down an unbiased jury was challenging for attorney's.
Both sides want jurors who don't already have an opinion on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. NewsChannel 11 talked to a woman who was not selected, she says out of the original 100, her likelihood of being picked ranked at 97 out of 100. Even so, attorneys had her go through the process in order to expand the chances of finding those who haven't already created an opinion from all the media.
A 12-member jury is now seated in Callie Long's intoxicated manslaughter trial. The jurors must determine if long is innocent or guilty in the death of 29-year-old bicyclist Brett Walrath.
Potential Juror, Susan McDonald, said "I think because it's so high profile they wanted to make sure that-- so many people had heard or read about it-- that they had enough to be able to get an unbiased jury from it."
McDonald was one of around 85 not selected to serve as a juror. Casey Loafman was another. The amount of attention the case has received is likely one reason many of the potential jurors were dismissed.
NewsChannel 11 asked Loafman if he remembered how many potential jurors said they had seen articles and news reports concerning the case. He said, "I'd say nearly the entire courtroom."
Such exposure can make the selection of an unbiased panel a difficult task.
"When the facts are widely publicized, as in this case, then there may be quite a few jurors who have an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the defendant," said Floyd Holder, Attorney at Law.
At the time of the accident, reports show Long's blood alcohol level was .13 when she allegedly hit Walrath. Due to the alleged alcohol involvement, potential jurors were asked if they had lost someone in a similar alcohol related incident. NewsChannel 11 asked Loafman how many people said yes to that. He said, "I think maybe a fourth or so."
Holder says those who answered yes probably already have an opinion on Long's verdict, he says those people were likely dismissed.
Another factor in the selection is that Walrath worked in the Lubbock District Attorney's office, because of that many people knew him personally as a husband and father. "There were some (potential jurors) who knew the family personally, so I think automatically that would be strikes against them on jury," said McDonald.
Because of Walrath's employment in the DA's office, that made it hard to find an unbiased lawyer, whic is why Criminal Attorney Rod Hobson is trying the case.