Judge: Dunn jury could be seated by late Tuesday
12 jurors, 4 alternates will be sequestered during trial
The judge presiding over the Michael Dunn trial is hopeful a jury to hear the Michael Dunn murder trial could be seated by late tomorrow and the trial could be completed by the end of next week.
On Monday Judge Russell Healey said the 12-member jury, along with four alternates, for Michael Dunn's murder trial will be sequestered.
Dunn is accused of first-degree murder in the Nov. 23, 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis during what was described as a dispute over loud music coming from an SUV full of teenagers parked outside a Southside convenience store.
One hundred potential jurors were given a questionnaire Monday where they were asked a variety of things, including personal connection to law enforcement, feelings on gun control and if they have children.
By the time court ended Monday, 36 of those potential jurors were excused. More were excused in Tuesday morning's questioning: one who said she sympathized with Jordan Davis' mother; a second woman said her son listens to loud music and she was not sure she could could be fair.
All of the jurors come from different parts of Duval County and for at least the next week their home away from home will be the Duval County Courthouse. Once the jury is selected they will be sequestered, meaning they will be kept away from any media that could influence them while on the jury.
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The media has only been allowed to listen to audio of jury selection in a separate room. A hearing was held Tuesday afternoon to allow reasonable media access to the courtroom, and the judge said he would allow a video feed from a fixed monitor above the door of the courtroom. It will only show the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Audio still cannot be recorded.
The judge said the media committee must make a proposal of exactly what it wants as far as access and bring it back later Tuesday.
As for jurors who are selected, the newspaper, Internet and television will be either cut off or drastically limited for the jurors.
"It's absolutely not a glamorous gig. In fact, it's quite contrary," said Jacksonville attorney Richard Kuritz. "They're not going to have their smartphones. When they go to the hotel room at night, they'll have everything taken out of the hotel. There's no Bibles in there, there's no television in there, there's no phones in there. They're not entitled to anything."
Kuritz is not associated with Dunn's case, but said a sequestered jury is rare but crucial in high-profile cases. This is the first time Jacksonville has seen a sequestered jury for a case.
"There's going to be a birthday party that's missed. There's going to be a dance recital. This is only going to be a week or two, but it is still hugely invasive," said attorney Randy Reep.
Reep told Channel 4 Monday night that sequestration is a way for both the state and defense to protect the integrity of the criminal justice process, to protect juror privacy and to ensure a fair verdict. In the Dunn case, the verdict is high-stakes and cannot afford to be clouded by any outside influences.
"What they've got to overcome emotionally is the temperament of their life, the missing out on this weekend and maybe two weekends, hopefully not three, (which could) influence their verdict," said Reep.
Aside from finding the right jurors to give a fair decision, coming up with the right jury for the case is another challenge in the Dunn murder trial.
"The right jury is what the two parties come up with, with the judge kind of playing umpire to make sure everybody played fair," said Reep.
Reep explained to Channel 4 that the task of choosing jurors is a delicate one. Reep said finding a fair and balanced jury that both sides of the case can be happy with starts with juror questionnaire.
"What you're really trying to do in theory, very quickly, is find biases pro or against your side -- the defense or the prosecution," said Reep.
Kuritz said that the more the prosecution and defense know about their potential jurors' life, human nature and psychology, the easier it is to zero in on a juror who might be best to decide Dunn's fate.
"I think who the prosecution is going to look for is someone who can identify with the minorities, and who can relate with gun violence or someone who has been a victim of gun violence," said Kuritz.
"I'd be looking for someone who has the ability to be receptive to alternative theories, maybe someone who has been threatened before that had that real, immediate fear in their life that the defense is going to try to project onto Mr. Dunn and why he chose to use deadly force, and I think you'll see people who are really, really happy about gun use," said Reep.
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