Jorge Sanders-Galvez, 23, of Missouri is charged with 1st Degree Murder in the death of Burlington resident Kedarie Johnson, 16, in March 2016. Sanders-Galvez’s trial got underway this week in Keokuk.
Day 2: October 25, 2017
The second day of the trial saw the completion of the private interviews between the potential jurors, Judge Mary Ann Brown, and the attorneys representing the state of Iowa and Sanders-Galvez. The final interviews were completed prior to the noon lunch break.
Brown announced the day before that she and the attorneys felt it was necessary to interview each prospective juror and alternate in her chambers. It followed the realization during some initial questioning of the entire jury pool that almost every potential juror had was already aware of the case through media reporting. That's despite the fact that Johnson was killed in Burlington and the trial is being held in Keokuk.
Brown said the private discussions would allow jurors to be more frank about how much they had heard about the case, without tainting the other jurors who may be more unaware. It was also an opportunity to discuss whether they would be comfortable with topics likely to be come during the trial regarding LGBTQ individuals and race.
Several jurors were dismissed after the individual interviews were complete.
State Questions Jury Pool
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Laura Roan resumed her questioning of the entire pool of jurors shortly after 1:00 pm. She started out by asking whether anyone had experience serving on a jury. Roughly 12 said they did, with a mix of civil and criminal cases.
Roan then spent a good deal of time talking about the difference between a criminal and civil case, in particular the burden of proof for a criminal case being “beyond a reasonable doubt” and a civil trial being “a preponderance of the evidence.”
No matter the criminal charge said Roan, “the burden of proof remains beyond a reasonable doubt. If you take an oath as a juror… that is you affirming you will follow the law. If you were on the jury, would you be able to follow the oath?”
Roan then shifted her focus to what types of evidence the potential jurors will hear about during the trial. She said while there is not an eyewitness to the crime or a videotape of the shooting, there will be plenty of forensic evidence offered surrounding Johnson’s death. Roan also warned the jurors that some of the evidence presented including autopsy photos will be graphic and disturbing, but relevant to the case.
Defense Questions Jury Pool
Defense Attorney Curtis Dial spent about 90 minutes speaking with members of the jury pool. He ran through about a half-dozen potential defense witnesses, including a former Lee County Sheriff’s Office employee and an expert in cell phones.
Dial also quizzed the jurors on some potential biases.
- If any of them had a problem with the number of journalists covering the trial. There were more than a half-dozen in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon representing local, state and national news outlets.
- If any of them had a problem with a federal attorney being involved in the case. The prosecution includes Roan, Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers, and Christopher Perras, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. Perras was assigned to the case by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
- If any of them had a problem with the case being moved to Keokuk, since he is from Keokuk. Judge Brown ordered the case moved to try to find a more diverse jury.
Dial also talked to them about how defendants are innocent if the state does not prove every element of a criminal charge, how sometimes people do not remember events as clearly as they did when first questioned about them, and about how depositions should be updated if someone recalls information they did not remember originally.
Once Dial concluded his questioning of the jurors, Judge Mary Ann Brown began the process of narrowing the field of jurors from 32 to 12 and the field of alternates from 5 to 3.
The state was allowed to go first, striking the name of one of the 32 jurors. Each side would be allowed to remove 10 jurors from the panel and one alternate. The process took about 30 minutes to complete.
The final jury consists of 9 women and 3 men. It appears to have just one person of color. There are two women and one men who will hear the case as alternates.
After they were seated, Brown reminded the jury to not talk about the case with anyone or do any research on their own. She asked them to return Thursday at 9:00 a.m. for opening statements.