Ruling against a prosecution motion that would have prolonged jury selection, Judge Lance Ito has decided to press ahead in seating a jury before conducting a lengthy hearing on the admissibility of DNA evidence.
Ito said Wednesday that more than 300 jurors may be ready Thursday to proceed to the second phase of questioning, and he believes a jury of 12 and eight alternates could be selected in weeks.Prosecutors had sought a delay in general jury questioning until after DNA evidence issues are resolved to ensure the jury could not be prejudiced by publicity generated by the proceedings.
Deputy District Attorney William Hodg-man said that if the final panel of 12 jurors and eight alternates is selected before the DNA hearing, they could be influenced by media coverage of the proceeding.
"We will send 20 jurors back out into the community and ask them not to listen, not to peek, not to succumb to the temptation of the all-pervasive media that's out there," Hodgman said.
Ito said he was unwilling to prolong the jury selection process any longer than necessary and indicated he would quiz jurors after the DNA hearing to determine what they may have heard.
"I am measuring the inconvenience to 300 citizens who are volunteering for jury service and a disruption in their life vs. an additional day of hearings here in court," the judge said.
"I find that the balance weighs in favor of the 300 citizens," he said.
Hardship questioning of prospective jurors could conclude Thursday. So many people have indicated a willingness to serve on the case, which could extend well into 1995, that no new jurors were questioned on Wednesday.
In the second phase of jury selection, the judge and the attorneys will review the 75-page questionnaires filled out by each potential juror.
Beginning on Oct. 12, prospective jurors will be quizzed on the contents of their questionnaires and their attitudes on a wide range of subjects.