Right now, sixteen people have passed through Judge Belvin Perry’s scrutiny and may possibly be jurors at the trial. Twelve additional people are up for screening this morning. Perry’s plan is to swear in a jury of twelve with four alternates this afternoon around 3 pm Eastern. Before he does, the state can exercise up to three more peremptory challenges and the defense team one on the jury panel itself. Then, both sides have the option of using a challenge on every single alternate chosen.
If the prosecutors and defense both exercise their peremptory strikes to the maximum, the end result of the pool of candidates, the final number would be an even dozen remaining–four short of the judge’s sweet sixteen. And that is without accounting for the very likely possibility that some of the twelve new prospective folks might be dismissed for cause.
Perry’s goal is possible but as the morning wears on, we’ll learn how probable it might be. I certainly would hate for him to come up short today. Once the remaining group is exhausted, it won’t be possible to get any additional prospects until next week–and at that time, there will not be a courtroom available. I have seen jury selection scheduled in a mock courtroom at a law school in another case. But, there does not seem to be a law school any closer to Clearwater than the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando. If today’s efforts fail, could they bus a pack of potential jurors from Pinellas County to Orlando for questioning?
The plan has undergone massive changes since the beginning of jury selection. Perry hoped to seat the full jury last Friday–or on Saturday at the latest. From that start, I believed that was an impossible dream. He wanted to have a jury panel with eight alternates–he’s cut that expectation in half. But it should work. The Michael Peterson trial in Durham, North Carolina, lasted twice as long as the estimated length of the Casey Anthony trial and they lost only three of the four alternates by the time it was over.
As the jury selection moves forward, we are getting incredible glimpses in the desperation of the defense team. I couldn’t believe the begging and pathetic act they displayed in an attempt to convince the judge that he force the prosecutors to give a day by day breakdown of the witnesses who will be called to testify. But it was all for naught. As the judge said forcing the state to reveal which of the three hundred witnesses will be called on any particular day is an act “above my pay grade.”
I suspect there will be more unpredicted moments in today’s events. But I fervently hope Judge Perry can pull this off and seat a full panel with alternates by day’s end. Because, in the end, all that matters is Justice for Caylee.