Criminal Case No. 03-BE-0530-S
The court established the jury selection procedure in its order of December 16, 2004. Federal courts handling cases that have attracted a large amount of media coverage often use a jury selection process similar to the seven-day procedure that will be used in this case.
It is designed to ensure that the jurors who will hear the case will be fair and impartial, and will base their decisions only on the evidence presented in court. The court ordered that the jurors remain anonymous until the trial concludes. They will be referred to by number in open court. Sketch artists are prohibited from drawing the facial features or hair of jurors.
Below is a chronology of the process that leads to the selection of 12 jurors and six alternates, who are paid $40 a day plus travel expenses:
Friday, December 3, 2004
Court Mails Jury Summonses
Approximately 600 prospective jurors who live in the 3 counties that comprise the Southern Division of the Northern District of Alabama were mailed summonses. The names of prospective jurors were drawn at random from the voter registration lists in those counties.
Prospective jurors can ask the court to excuse them from service if being a juror would impose an undue hardship on them. The court decides whether to grant the hardship excuses without consulting with counsel.
Wednesday, January 5, 2004, 9:00 a.m.
Prospective Jurors Fill Out Questionnaires
A total of approximately 300 prospective jurors will report to court over the course of three days to fill out a form that asks questions about their backgrounds and their knowledge of the case. These proceedings are closed to the public and the media, as is the standard practice in the Northern District of Alabama. Reporters are prohibited from speaking to prospective jurors while they are being considered for service on this case.
A blank copy of the questionnaire is on this page. Copies of completed questionnaires will be placed under seal.
Monday, January 10, 2005: 9:30 a.m.
Parties Issue Challenges for Cause
Based on the responses to the questionnaires, the defense or prosecution can ask the court to strike a prospective juror because the lawyers believe they could not be fair and impartial. These proceedings will be held in the judge's chambers, as is the court's practice in all cases, and are closed to the public and the media.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005: 9:00 a.m.
Court and Parties Conduct Individual Voir Dire
Groups of approximately 30 prospective jurors will report to the courthouse to individually answer questions aloud -- a process known as "voir dire." The court will ask questions about their backgrounds, and the defense and prosecution will each have one hour per group to ask questions arising from answers on the jury questionnaire or the court's questioning of prospective jurors.
These proceedings may be viewed by the public and the media over the closed-circuit video feed in the Jury Assembly Room. Courtroom spectator seats will be in use by the prospective jurors. If the answer to a particular question could invade a prospective juror's privacy or taint the jury pool, the exchange will take place in the judge's chambers.
Monday, January 24, 2005, 9:00 a.m.
Parties Exercise Their Peremptory Challenges
The defense and prosecution may strike a limited number of prospective jurors without giving any reason. The number of peremptory strikes is determined by the court. The defense has 15 and the prosecution has nine in selecting the 12-member jury. Each side has three strikes to use in the selection of alternate jurors.
This proceeding may be viewed by the public and the media over the closed-circuit video feed in the Jury Assembly Room. Courtroom spectator seats will be in use by the prospective jurors.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005, 9:00 a.m.
Parties Make Opening Statements
The court will provide the jury with preliminary instructions and the prosecution will make its opening statement. It is common for defense counsel to also make an opening statement, but they are not required to do so. The defendant is presumed innocent and the prosecution carries the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes with which he is charged. Testimony from the prosecution's witnesses will follow the opening statements.
This proceeding and the remainder of the trial may be viewed by the public and the media in the courtroom or over the closed-circuit video feed in the Jury Assembly Room.
The prosecution has been granted a restraining order with respect to some of the defendant's assets, so that a pool of funds would be available should a conviction be obtained on counts that trigger an asset forfeiture proceeding. The court supervises the maintenance of those assets.
Ruling on a motion to intervene in the case brought by five media organizations, the court's October 18, 2004 order sealed documents related to the defendant's financial records and restrained assets to ensure a fair trial. Some of these documents may become public during the course of the trial. Motions to unseal the documents may be made after the trial has concluded.
Understanding the Federal Courts, published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, describes the structure of the federal judiciary and the procedures that govern criminal cases.