Murder case features fear of retribution in first day of jury selection
RICHLAND CO.—Fear of retribution was the big thing on more than one prospective juror’s mind today as the first day of jury selection in the Brandon Jenkins murder trial got underway.
Security was so tight at the Richland County courthouse today in Olney that even the jurors were wanded with the metal detector along with members of the public and media for any contraband including everything from phones to weapons.
The typical fare of coffee, juice and donuts were set out for prospective jurors who needed a sugar fix as the day marched on.
Circuit judge Larry Dunn put everyone at ease by joking that if anyone were upset about not being able to have their cell phones they could, “Blame the guy in the black dress.”
Although Dunn’s courtroom is no stranger to levity, moderation is key and the seriousness of the situation never sacrificed.
Dunn keeps a tight rein on the goings on in his court.
The morning began in earnest at 9:20 with the first roll call with several prospective jurors AWOL.
Brandon Jenkins, attired in gray dress pants and black dress shirt, appeared calm but understandably nervous as judge Dunn introduced to prospective jurors attorneys for the prosecution David Hyde and David Rands first, then defense attorney John O’Gara and Jenkins himself who offered prospective jurors a timid-sounding “good morning.”
Dunn informed those present he believed the trial would run five to seven days and possibly be handed to the jury for deliberation Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
“That’s the plan anyway,” Dunn said. “Once we get started something could happen to change that, but that’s the plan we are moving forward with.”
The first 12 prospective jurors were seated and judge Dunn began questioning each member about whether or not they knew any of the attorneys, Brandon Jenkins or anyone on the witness list.
The laborious jury selection process is one of the most labor-intensive aspects of a jury trial but probably the most important to the prosecution, defense and the court in order for a fair and impartial trial to take place.
Each prospective juror is questioned in depth about if, and if so where, they may have read or listened to any aspects of the case, including talks with co-workers and family members.
They are questioned about how any exposure to reports on the case may have influenced their ability to set aside any preconceived feelings on the matter and listen to the evidence in court.
Dunn, Rands and O’Gara, because David Hyde didn’t do anything today, were polite as they questioned prospective jurors, some the likes of county board member Dennis Graves’ wife Jane who wanted to take the opportunity to bash Disclosure.
“I am sad to say I read reports in Disclosure,” confessed Jane Graves, who wouldn’t have to if her local daily would bother investigating a story once in awhile.
At one point Rands, who has not been written about favorably in Disclosure for several years, was kind and professional enough to direct the questioning back on point by saying, “Now, we know that newspaper reports and radio reports can sometimes, unintentionally, be in error.”
The point Rands was trying to make was that, because no media outlet, Disclosure or others, has access to all the investigative details, published reports generally do not have all the facts and therefore opinions by prospective jurors who read or heard media reports should consider setting aside any preconceived notion about what happened until the heard all the facts in the case.
Three panels in all were questioned with O’Gara appearing to peel back the Constitutionalist in nearly every prospective juror.
To a man and woman, only one prospective juror out of the 38 questioned the entire day said she didn’t think people should be allowed to carry weapons in public and that they should not be allowed to use deadly force to protect themselves or their family.
O’Gara told prospective jurors he intended to mount a Self-Defense defense and so asked all 38 prospectives if they believed a person has a right to defend themselves.
All 38 said yes, with only the one saying it should not be taken as far as using deadly force.
It would have been unethical to ask the woman if she would use deadly force to keep someone she loved from being brutally raped, tortured or killed, but it may have changed her answer.
Be that as it may, nearly 75 percent of the day’s prospectives said they had guns in their home.
Probably the most disturbing aspect of the day’s questioning of prospective jurors was when several said they were afraid of what the Earp faction, described as an “unchecked gang” by one prospective juror, would do if they found Mr. Jenkins acted in self defense and therefore was innocent.
“I have my family to think about,” one woman said.
“I have heard stories,” another woman added intimating the Earp posse has been making threats, and that she “had children….” not finishing the thought but instead intimating that her kids might be in the vicinity of either the Earp thugs, their ilk, or their offspring.
In fact, the dead man’s brother Douglas Flavious Earp has been charged with threatening one of the individual on the witness list.
At one point two individuals, a woman accompanied by a man sporting a black eye, sat in the courtroom wearing black t-shirts with pink angel wings on the back inscribed with “Scotty’s Ride” in reference to a reportedly failed poker-run the Earp crowd attempted recently on behalf of the deceased.
The “unchecked gang” comment seems to stem from the fact David Hyde has allowed the Earp/Trout family to terrorize numerous citizens of Olney without fear of prosecution.
Arguably, if Hyde would have bothered doing his job and prosecuted the miscreants before they became so violent, this story wouldn’t exist, Michael Scott Earp would still be alive and Brandon Jenkins, a two-tour Marine combat vet, would have returned home to his family in Texas after another successful mission in the Southern Illinois oil patch.
Jury selection resumes tomorrow, Wednesday, April 25.
Publisher’s note: Today’s NewsBlasts were a first attempt at a new aspect of bringing you the news as it is unfolding. The process ran into some technical difficulties. We now think the bugs are worked out and so check tomorrow (Wednesday, April 25) frequently for no fewer than four NewsBlasts as jury selection continues.
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