ATHENS, Ala. – The theft and ethics trial of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely wrapped up the 3rd day of jury selection and the sides are hoping to wrap up the process by Friday.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense have faced a few challenges during the selection process.
Originally, the jury pool was expected to be nearly 500 people, a much larger jury pool than is required for most cases. This is due to Sheriff Blakely’s deep roots in the community.
The court is questioning a small group of potential jurors every day, they planned for 125 jurors a day, for four days. So far, the pools have been much smaller. Wednesday, the group being questioned totaled 46 people. By the end of the day, only 30 remained. The other 16 were excused.
During the jury selection process Wednesday, it stood out how well-known Sheriff Blakey, who’s been in office since 1983, seems to be in Limestone County.
During questioning of Wednesday’s group, a number of jurors expressed admiration for Sheriff Blakely. One person was taught in school by Blakely’s late wife and a few suggested the charges could be politically motivated.
A handful of men were overcome with emotion and cried a bit when asked whether they could serve on a jury with the potential of convicting the Sheriff. One juror was excused when they told the court they would have a hard time convicting Blakely because of all the good he’s done in the community.
Five jurors were excused Wednesday morning, including one older man who said of Blakely, “I’ve known the boy all his life.”
Beyond finding people without ties to the sheriff, the schedule for the trial presents a challenge for many jurors.
At the end of the day, after hours of sitting in court, presiding Judge Pamela Baschab told potential jurors after the jury selection process ends the trial could last anywhere from 10 days to four weeks.
The judge asked if any jurors had scheduling conflicts in that time frame they had not yet told the court. Nine jurors stood up, two of them were excused.
The judge told the 30 jurors who were not excused Wednesday to come to Athens High School at 9:00 in the morning, when the jury will be impaneled.
Wednesday was the first full day media was allowed access to the jury selection. Judge Baschaub announced plans to grant the media and public access late Tuesday afternoon after previously barring media from observing jury selection.
News 19, the Alabama Broadcasters Association, and several other news outlets statewide filed a motion just after noon Tuesday explaining why it was unconstitutional to keep the public and media barred from the courtroom.