ST. LOUIS - The jury selection process for Governor Eric Greitens' trial started Thursday. A group of 160 Missouri residents are undergoing questioning from the judge, prosecuting attorney and defense attorney.
“They question the prospective juror pool about any implicit biases they might have,” Andrew Popplewell, a local criminal defense attorney, said. “They’re trying to find someone that can be fair and impartial that hasn’t read too much about the case, that doesn’t know about the publicity surrounding the case.”
The judge and both attorneys questioned 40 potential jurors Thursday morning and afternoon. The court has released six pool members so far. The final jury will consist of twelve people plus two to three alternates.
The selection process begins with the judge questioning the pool members. If a potential juror doesn’t feel comfortable coming forward with a concern, that person can come to the bench privately to speak with the judge. The next step in the process is the voir dire.
Under that procedure, the prosecuting attorney first questions prospective jurors, then the defense attorney does the same.
“Greitens' attorneys have asked prospective jurors if they have voted for Greitens,” Popplewell said.
Popplewell said political affiliation is not a restriction during the selection process but is certainly something both attorneys will pay attention to in their questioning.
Each attorney gets six “strikes” without cause, which means either attorney can pull any of the prospective jurors from the panel without giving a reason. There's also an unlimited number of requests for dismissal "for cause," meaning either attorney can ask the court to pull a potential juror due to reason.
This trial is unique in that nearly everyone knows Eric Greitens. Criminal defense lawyers often refrain from choosing conservatives for a jury, but in this case, it’s different. It's a complicated case that will be difficult to keep unbiased, Popplewell said.
“We’ve got the chief executive officer of the state of Missouri sitting in trial which has never happened before,” he said.
The selection process is set to end Friday.