Still no jury for Vance trial | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Still no jury for Vance trial

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 5:35 PM


Photo: Brian Chilson

Still no jury for the capital murder trial of Curtis Vance in the beating death of KATV anchor Anne Pressly, though three more jurors were seated today. Judge Chris Piazza sent home a group of nine potential jurors who had completed preliminary questioning at around 5:15 p.m. tonight, telling them to return at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow with a promise that the jury will be seated by 11 a.m.

Jury selection ground slow today, though the proceedings did pick up speed as the day wore on. In pools of six, potential jurors were first called into the courtroom one at a time to answer questions about pre-trial publicity from defense attorneys and prosecutors. All were then brought back in as a group and questioned about their knowledge and feelings about the death penalty. In addition, defense attorney Stephanie Streett questioned each group about whether they felt a black defendant could get a fair trial when the victim was white, and asked if they'd be willing to step up and say something if they felt there was any racist sentiment in the jury deliberation room.

The first batch, which were questioned from 9:30 a.m. to almost 1 p.m., were all excused by the judge after defense and prosecutors exercised some of their no-questions-asked juror exclusions, called "peremptory strikes." The defense started the jury selection process with 12 of these strikes. Prosecutors started with ten.

Three from the second batch of potential jurors were seated. The day's final group of nine -- which received questioning about pre-trial publicity directly from Piazza, with Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley turning them over to defense questioning without comment -- have all finished the one-on-one questioning, and will undergo group questioning about the death penalty tomorrow morning.

During one-on-one questioning, two potential jurors -- a white woman and a black man -- were excused by the judge today due to their stated inability to impose the death penalty under any circumstance. In order to sit in judgment in a capital murder case, jurors must be able to at least consider the possibility of imposing the death penalty. 

The day wasn't without it's lighthearted moments, as when the 120-member jury pool's oldest member, a 91 year old man, was called to the jury box for questioning. After Piazza asked the man if he felt as if he would be physically able to complete what could be a demanding two-week trial, the man admitted that he would try his best, though he did get sleepy sometimes. Piazza, with a smile, said that he does too before excusing the man from jury selection process, saying they'd see about getting him on the jury of a shorter trial. 

Close to the end of the day, when another particularly nervous looking potential juror came in and sat down in the jury box, Piazza gave a grin and said: "I guess the question is: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"


UPDATE: Three more jurors have been seated in the capital murder trial of Curtis Vance. That brings the total to eleven. Twelve jurors and two alternates are needed. Another round of interviews is about to begin. It's possible the jury could be seated by tonight.

Jury selection has been slow-going.  No new jurors were added this morning to the panel.   Vance stands accused of the rape and murder of KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly. David Koon reports that two of the potential jurors interviewed this morning were excused because they could not support the death penalty under any circumstance.  If one is convicted of capital murder, jurors must be willing to consider all sentencing options.   

Traffic in and out of the courtroom was so heavy that at 11 a.m., Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ordered the door locked. Jury selection resumed this afternoon at 1:30 p.m.  The courtroom was mostly empty except for reporters.  Vance sat calmly as potential jurors answered questions, leaning in to listen to his attorneys from time to time. 

KATV reports that the one juror interviewed yesterday who said she had no knowledge of the case says today that she's remembered that her son received a text message about the murder when they were together.


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