JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - All eyes in Northeast Florida will be on the federal courthouse Monday as former Congresswoman Corrine Brown's corruption trial begins with jury selection.
Brown is charged with 22 federal counts, including mail and wire fraud, after prosecutors said she and her former chief of staff funneled $800,000 from a fake nonprofit into a personal “slush fund.”
The process for selecting a jury in federal court is different than in county court. The pool from which the 12 jurors and two alternates are selected is smaller -- just 39 potential jurors.
And the pool of potential jurors will not all come from Duval County.
Instead of the lawyers from each side asking questions of those prospective jurors, the questions will be posed by the judge.
The defense and prosecution still have a big say in who sits on the jury.
Both sides will submit questions for the judge to ask.
Among the questions prosecutors have already submitted:
- Do you personally know Corrine Brown?
- Do you have any strong feelings about her one way or the other?
- Do you have any political views that would affect your ability to consider the evidence presented at trial?
Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not associated with the case, said the government's attorneys will be looking for a specific type of juror.
“Prosecutors want to make sure jurors are not going to come in and give Congresswoman Brown a 'not guilty' just because she's Congresswoman Brown,” Nichols said.
He said prosecutors will want to be sure jurors chosen have not been affected by Brown one way or the other.
But the defense will be hoping for something different, Nichols said.
“The defense would love to find jurors who are going to be sympathetic to her cause,” Nichols said. “Not only what she's done in her career but potentially individuals who would be thinking the government is persecuting her, which is what we've been hearing from her in the last year.”
Another underlying factor in the case will be the race and gender of each jury member.
“We should never be presuming that a certain individual of a certain race will side one way or the other in this trial or any trial,” Nichols said. “Is it an underlying issue that everybody is going to be talking about? Of course it is.”
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