Jury selection in the retrial of former LRPD officer Josh Hastings resumes at 9:30 a.m. this morning. While no jurors had been seated or selected by the time court was dismissed just after 5 p.m. yesterday, the process appears to be making progress after several days of very slow going. Many more details from yesterday on the jump
TODAY: The selection process continues, but there was this momentary diversion. When court came back into session at 1:45, Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson raised objections to a tweet by KATV’s Justin Lewis, which he viewed as questioning the ethics of one of the prosecutors. One courtroom observer said it related to the prosecutor clapping. UPDATE: here it is:
“Questionable ethics going on in this courtroom today. Member of prosecution’s office on media bench softly claps when certain race is called.”
Judge Wendell Griffen addressed Lewis directly with the pool of potential jurors out of the room, saying that while he’s a strong supporter of the first amendment and the press, if Lewis or any reporter reports anything that runs a risk of compromising courtroom proceedings, that reporter will be removed for the duration of the trial. Griffen said the case is too important”for it to hinge on whether or not you can get the best headline.”
He added, “You now know that people who you might not have thought have been watching, are watching.”
Hastings is on trial for manslaughter in the death of 15-year-old Bobby Moore III, who was killed by Hastings on Aug. 12, 2012 while Moore was attempting to flee from a west Little Rock apartment complex where Moore and two friends had been breaking into cars. Hastings said he had no choice but to shoot as Moore drove at him, but prosecutors and investigators say the evidence at the scene shows otherwise.
Yesterday, Judge Wendell Griffen set up two pools of potential jurors: 12 in the jury box, and another larger pool of potentials in the gallery. Griffen spent most of the afternoon yesterday questioning the 12 potentials in the jury box on a variety of issues, including whether they follow crime stories in the news, whether they or a family member have ever been accused of or tried for a crime, whether they watch “CSI”-style police procedural shows on TV, whether they’ve ever been the victim of a crime, whether they have a concealed carry permit or own a handgun, etc. If any potential jurors in the jury box answer yes to his questions, Griffen inquires further of that person. On a few occasions — those in which a potential juror has answered yes to a question of a sensitive nature, such as whether they’ve ever been charged with a crime, Griffen has them come forward to the bench and questions them in private with the attorneys present.
Periodically, after inquiring with a potential juror who answers in the affirmative to one of his questions, Griffen will dismiss that person from the jury box pool. Attorneys for the prosecution and defense are not asked for their input on who is dismissed from the jury box pool.
Once a person is dismissed from the jury box pool, Griffen calls on his staff to call the name of another potential juror from the larger pool in the gallery. Once the replacement is seated, he often brings them up to speed by asking the replacement if they heard all the previous questions, and asking them if they can answer yes to any of those questions.
Some of the more interesting moments yesterday came when Griffen began asking questions of the jury box pool about their attitudes toward law enforcement, including their views on the rights of people suspected of unlawful activity when they encounter officers, whether the “status” of a person changes how they should be treated during an arrest, whether the “training” of a person changes whether they should be expected to follow the law, and their views on relationships between people of color and the police. The potential jurors in the box, with slight variations, all agreed that the law should be implemented equally. Griffen also asked a series of questions about how they might evaluate the testimony of those who have been in trouble with the law — a question that seems to be designed to gauge how potential jurors might react to the testimony of Bobby Moore’s friends, who were breaking into cars with him the night he was killed by Hastings. Griffen also asked the jury box pool if they would have problems with the fact that Arkansas state law says that in Manslaughter cases, self defense may not be used as a defense or justification for a killing. All said they would not.
Just before 5 p.m., after several minutes of discussion and a short bench conference with the judge, attorneys for the prosecution and defense submitted their “strikes” — requests to remove people from the jury box pool. Six people were dismissed, leaving behind two black females, two white males, and two white females. While they are still not officially jurors, they survived the cull.