Wednesday, May 30, 2007

[seale trial] Day 1: 55 Left in the Chicken House

by Matt Saldaña
May 30, 2007

In the first day of the James Ford Seale federal kidnapping trial, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate eliminated 21 jurors from a jury pool of 76.

Potential jurors were randomly selected from the southern district of Mississippi, which includes 45 counties across the width of the state, extending from the Gulf Coast as far north as Noxubee County on the Alabama border and Issaquena County along the Mississippi River. Tomorrow, Wingate will continue the process of eliminating jurors from the remaining 55 and, if necessary, examine additional jury pools. Throughout the jury selection process, Seale—dressed in a light blue oxford shirt and khaki Dockers slacks—listened quietly with a court-issued hearing aid.

Juror No. 68, a white male state trooper, qualified for the only automatic exemption, since he is a public officer actively engaged in official duties. The 20 other excused jurors successfully petitioned their release based mostly on financial and health considerations.

Juror No. 10, a white male rancher and logger who works a two-man crew with his brother-in-law, explained to Wingate that it would be too dangerous for his brother-in-law to work in the woods alone, or to leave his cattle unattended. Wingate acknowledged that he understood the juror’s ranching explanation, but then stopped himself.

“I said, ‘Uh huh,’ but I actually don’t know what you’re talking about,” Wingate said, eliciting laughter from the courtroom.

“See, you’re educating me,” Wingate told Juror No. 10, whom he later excused despite disagreement from the defense.

Wingate also excused Juror No. 75, a one-armed white male chicken farmer from Wayne County, after receiving another lesson in animal husbandry. The juror explained to Wingate his day-to-day process of tending to six chicken houses, which he does with the aid of one elderly, part-time worker.

[View the entire article at the Jackson Free Press Road to Meadville blog.]