Jury selected in trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels

The jury was selected Monday in the trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, who faces a list of charges linked to an investigation into an affair between him and a former corrections officer.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The jury was selected Monday in the trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, who faces a list of charges linked to an investigation into an affair between him and a former corrections officer.

The six jurors are made up of four women and two men. One man and one were picked as the two alternates.

The Clay County Clerk of Courts told News4JAX that the jury was chosen from Clay County residents.

Monday was the first day of jury selection, and throughout the day, potential jurors were asked one-by-one about the level of knowledge they had about the case. Many of them said they heard about it through the news media.

Daniels was in court, sitting attentively with his attorneys by his side as they narrowed down a pool of potential jurors. The state did the same, asking potential jurors questions such as “are you married?” and “how long have you been married?” The state also asked jurors “has anyone been involved in a relationship that ended badly, volatile or infidelity?” and “would hearing about a potential volatile relationship impact your judgment?” Two potential jurors said they had experienced abuse, but that would not impact their judgment for this case. These questions may seem invasive, but they can help identify possible bias in the potential jurors.

News4JAX learned in court that 300 people were summoned and that approximately 200 people showed up.

The trial has been delayed several times. It was initially set to begin Dec. 13, 2021. It was pushed back until February and then it was delayed until May 16, before Daniels’ lawyers and the special prosecutor agreed to push the trial back to September. As News4JAX has been covering this case, a few reasons for the delays included new charges being added and witnesses having to be deposed later than scheduled.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson recused her office because of a conflict of interest, so the Fifth Circuit State Attorney’s Office from Ocala is handling the case after being appointed as an independent prosecutor by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The trial will be held in Clay County but will be presided over by St. Johns County Judge R. Lee Smith, as all Clay County judges also recused themselves from the case.

Sources told News4JAX that Daniels rejected a plea offer, but during the final pre-trial hearing Sept. 1, the prosecutor said there was no offer from the state, which means whatever plea negotiations were taking place didn’t go anywhere.

Daniels was arrested in August 2020 after an investigation into an affair between Daniels and a woman named Cierra Smith. She was a corrections officer at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office when Daniels was the JSO director of the jail.

Daniels is accused of ordering one of his deputies to illegally arrest Smith for stalking him in 2019 after he told his wife the affair was over.

Investigators said Daniels lied to them about the actions he took when the affair became public and had his phone scrubbed of incriminating communications.

Daniels is charged with tampering with evidence, attempted destruction of evidence and five counts of lying to law enforcement. The tampering with evidence charges relate to deleting Google account and cellphone data while knowing he was under investigation, according to court documents. The alleged offenses took place between May 6, 2019, and June 4, 2019.

Daniels acknowledged in court earlier this month that if convicted of the felonies, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Jurors will begin hearing testimony Tuesday. The state has recited a list of possible witnesses that will be called to testify. Among the names are Smith and Mike Williams.

Court will begin at 8:45 a.m. every day and end at 5 p.m., and the trial could end by Friday.

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