Judge Tim Ellis (pictured at right) had hoped to get to opening remarks yesterday in the corruption trial of former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford and former reserve Capt. Guy Penland. But that proved to be “unwarranted optimism,” he quipped, and jury selection continued this morning.
After potential jurors filled out questionnaires during yesterday’s lunch break, Ellis immediately excused 10 more based on their answers. (He had already dismissed three yesterday.) Medford could be seen poring over the questionnaires with his defense attorneys, while Penland leaned back in his chair for most of the afternoon. When both prosecutors and defense attorneys asked for more time, Ellis responded, “I had to go through these quickly, but I have .. no more resources than you,” before granting them a 10-minute break to continue reviewing potential jurors’ answers.
Next came rapid-fire question sessions with potential jurors about their backgrounds, opinions on the case, beliefs about gambling and previous experiences with law enforcement.
One man was excused later yesterday because he said that after seeing footage of Medford in shackles on television, “I figured he must be guilty of something.” Others were excused because they worked for Buncombe County, were ill, knew witnesses in the case, would face financial hardship if they had to serve on the jury and, in one case, because they had a self-described deep distrust of lawyers in general.
The jurors are being drawn from all over the federal Western District of North Carolina. One woman told Ellis that she’d had to travel 115 miles from Cleveland County to participate.
At the lunch break today, 11 more potential jurors remained to be reviewed. However, Ellis noted that the number for a potential jury pool has been passed, and the jury could be seated if neither the prosecution nor the defense wants to continue questioning the remaining candidates. He repeated his commitment that both the prosecution and defense will give their opening statements today.
— David Forbes, staff writer
illustration by Adam Altenderfer