Judge rules out mailed questionnaire in Katrina, Reggie Brown case

Jury selection now scheduled to last three days

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A federal judge has denied a request from the attorneys for suspended City Council members Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown to have a questionnaire mailed out to prospective jurors, asking them a variety of questions about their background and the case.

On Monday afternoon, Reggie and Katrina Brown, who are not related, appeared in court for a status hearing to discuss jury selection for their trial. They are scheduled to go on trial in August on charges, laid out in a 38-count indictment, that include conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. The fraud allegations involve money loaned to Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce business, KJB Specialties.

Last week, Reggie Brown’s attorney, Thomas Bell, submitted an 18-page proposed questionnaire for prospective jurors. During the hearing, Bell said he had submitted the questions when he did so that they could be mailed to prospective jurors along with their summonses. The questions were on topics such as knowledge about the case, attitudes toward law enforcement and what bumper stickers prospective jurors have on their cars.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt issued an order addressing several matters from the hearing, including a denial of the request for a mailed questionnaire. During the hearing, the judge said he had used jury questionnaires in trials in the past, but they were shorter, usually a page or two. He said a jury questionnaire that prospective jurors fill out in advance, whether before reporting to court or on the first day of jury selection, creates logistical challenges in getting the questionnaires fully completed and distributed to attorneys for their review. Klindt said specific questions could also be posed to jurors in open court, during the jury selection process.

The judge mentioned a recent case in which jury questionnaires were used – the trial in Orlando of Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. The judge said questionnaires were used in that trial because attorneys had questions they wanted prospective jurors to answer but did not want to ask in open court due to national security reasons.

Attorneys will now have the opportunity to submit proposed questions for the voir dire jury selection process no later than July 26. The parties will then have two weeks to file any objections to those questions.

The judge's Wednesday order also allocated an additional day for jury selection, following further considering of the timing and process for selection. Jury selection will now begin on Wednesday, Aug. 14, and is expected to last through Aug. 16.

During the hearing, the attorneys also discussed peremptory challenges, which allow them to dismiss a prospective juror during the selection process without having to give a reason. Currently, the two defense teams are set to share 10 peremptory challenges, while prosecutors will have six. Bell told the court he may file a request for additional challenges. The judge gave a deadline of July 26 for that formal request and said that if the defense got additional peremptory challenges, prosecutors would, as well.

Before the hearing, Reggie Brown said everything would come out at the trial. After the hearing, he had more to say.

“I never questioned my position, ever, ever, have I questioned my position, I’ve stated it from day one, I would never admit to doing something I didn't do,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.” Brown also said he was feeling confident.

As Katrina Brown left the hearing with her attorneys, Richard Landes and John Leombruno, we asked if she was feeling confident.

“I think they’re doing their job,” she responded, pointing to her defense team.

Another status hearing is set for July 22. Following jury selection, the trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 19 and last for approximately two weeks.

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.