Pictured above is the view from my new home, the Yavapai County Superior Courthouse in Camp Verde, AZ.
Day two of the Thomas J. Chantry trial began with Judge Astrowsky meeting with Council for the State and Defense in his chamber. When they emerged the Judge informed us that juror #48 had car problems and had been excused. Additionally, juror #49 had diabetes and that, in combination with a long drive to the courthouse were problematic for this jurors health. Juror #49 was then excused. This brought the pool of remaining jurors down to 54.
There were 27 jurors seated in the juror’s box. The other 27 were seated in the public seating area. The latter group had a very slim chance of being selected as a juror for the trial because they were basically, to borrow a term from baseball, in the “bullpen.” They were the relief pitchers. If one of the 27 jurors seated in the juror’s box was excused someone from the “bullpen” would take their place. This actually occurred; over the course of the day 5 of the 27 were excused and replaced by jurors in the “bullpen.”
From this pool of 27 jurors, the final cut was made to 15. I didn’t realize how this worked, but there will be 12 jurors who make the final decision on Chantry’s guilt or innocence. Those 12 will not be determined until all the evidence has been presented and they are set to go into the jury room and vote. At that time there will some type of lottery to determine which 3 will be excluded. Of course if during the course of the trial, one of the jurors is unable to continue due to sickness, etc. the court will still be able to meet the legal requirement of 12 jurors to decide the case.
The process of getting down to the final 15 jurors took most of the day.
Judge Astrowsky asked the pool of 27 jurors many questions. Some examples are:
Have you, your family or friends served as Law Enforcement officers?
Have you, a close friend or a relative ever been convicted of a crime?
Do you have any legal experience?
Would your personal or religious beliefs prevent you from sitting in judgment over another individual?
Has anyone not heard of the #metoo movement?
If anyone had an affirmative answer they would be questioned further and then would be asked if this would preclude them from being fair and impartial and decide the case solely and exclusively on the basis of the evidence presented in court.
After Judge Astrowsky was finished with his questions the State’s attorney, Susan Eazer asked specific questions of the jurors which would aid her in determining the jurors she wanted to strike/excuse from the pool. After this Defense attorney, John Sears did the same.
Here I want to add my commentary to what I considered to be a blunder by Sears. He asked if any of the jurors had been inappropriately touched. Eazer quickly objected and Judge Astrowsky sustained her objection. Sears plowed ahead, quickly asking if anyone had been a victim of sexual abuse. Again Eazer quickly objected and Judge Astrowsky sustained her objection. Sears continued immediately with his next question, asking if anyone had ever been sexually abused and reported this abuse to the Police. Clearly frustrated, Eazer asked Judge Astrowsky if they could approach the bench. Judge Astrowsky responded with what seemed to be an emphatic “Yes.” It was as if he wondered what took Eazer so long to challenge this line of questioning. They talked for a bit and then Judge Astrowsky said they were going into his chamber.
My opinion of this exchange is that it was a big win for Susan Eazer. She came across as protecting the jurors from having to answer these potentially embarrassing and sensitive questions while John Sears appeared to be rather cold-hearted. I tweeted this exchange during the lunch break, and it appears the Defense may be reading my tweets. Either that or somebody on their team had the same thoughts as I did because the first thing Sears did after the lunch break was to apologize to the jurors for his personal and direct questions. He stated this wasn’t to embarrass or single anyone out, but it was important information he needed to know. He urged jurors to advise Judge Astrowsky by a written note if his line of questioning applied to them. I think Sears was wise to do this, as it may have served to repair his image in the juror’s eyes. Obviously, this is all speculative on my part, but that’s what you’re paying me to do!
After Sears finished his questioning Judge Astrowsky said the Defense and Prosecution would now be “striking” jurors to get to the final number of fifteen. The jurors were dismissed and Judge Astrowsky said this would be a closed court session, therefore members of the public had to leave. There was one member of the public in attendance – that would be me. Apparently family members of Chantry were not considered members of the public because Chantry’s wife, her father, her mother and the mystery man, whom I assume is married to Chantry’s mother-in-law, all remained.
As I wasn’t in the courtroom, I cannot say exactly how the process worked, but I can say that John Sears made his selections first. While he was in the court Susan Eazer was not. I am not sure if she had to be out of the court or just chose to be, but Sears was in there quite a long time and then Eazer went in to strike the jurors she did not want.
When this process was completed the 27 jurors were called back in and told to sit in the “bullpen” area. The court clerk then announced the jurors who had been selected by their number and they would then proceed to the juror’s box. They turned in their old juror number and were given a new number to identify themselves, starting with one and ending with fifteen. The twelve not selected were thanked by Judge Astrowsky and excused from the court.
Judge Astrowsky then swore the 15 jurors in, had the clerk read the 8 Criminal Counts that Tom Chantry was charged with and then read his preliminary instructions to the jurors. They were then dismissed.
Judge Astrowsky and the two sides tied up some business and then court was adjourned for the day. Tomorrow will begin with the opening arguments. Susan Eazer will go first, followed by John Sears.
Things should get very interesting from here on out.
While I was banned from the courthouse I was conducting some research on the Chantry case in the Clerk of Court’s office. Anyone can go in there and log on to their records system and read any or all documents they have on file. You can request copies be made of documents that interest you. The cost is fifty cents per page, or you can take a photo of the information displayed on the computer screen. Since I am cheap and have a limited blogging budget ($0.00) I opted for the photo option. Below you will find the 8 Criminal counts Chantry is charged with. These eight charges involve five victims. Count one is victim “1.” Counts two through five are victim “2.” Count six is victim “3.” Count seven is victim “4.” Count 8 is victim “5.”