Attorneys in the attempted murder trial of Jane Shine discovered just how difficult it is to select a jury in rural Iowa.
After the first day of the trial and almost six hours of jury selection, the final 14 who will sit in on the trial have not been selected yet.
Five jurors of the initial 28 were excused from the jury panel, causing five to be drawn from the pool to be questioned by attorneys.
Prior to beginning questioning, Jasper County District Court Judge Gregory A. Hulse told jurors that even though they may have previous commitments through work or family, those are not usually reasons to be excluded from jury service.
“Jury service is a serious commitment,” Hulse said.
After a computer randomly selected the initial 28 and their assigned seats, Assistant County Attorney Scott Nicholson began questioning the potential jurors about their backgrounds and whether anything would cause them to have preconceived notions about Jane Shine, the victim Eric James or any of the witnesses the state plans to call to testify.
A female sitting in slot one in the jury box said she was friends with Jane Shine’s daughter, Danielle Shine, and initially said her relationship wouldn’t prevent her from weighing the evidence presented in the trial fairly and impartially.
After a midday break, Nicholson asked her again, and she answered that it would affect her judgement. She was brought back to Hulse’s chambers for a private meeting with counsel and Hulse. She was excused from jury service.
Four other juror panel members were excused from service as well. After defense attorney Steve Addington began his questioning, one jury panel member said he had difficulty hearing Addington and had difficulty hearing all of the proceedings that morning.
Addington moved to excuse the witness, but Nicholson said the man’s hearing wouldn’t be a problem when the trial started since all the evidence would be presented using microphones and the speakers are located directly behind the jury box.
The jury panel member was taken to Hulse’s chambers, along with counsel, and was excused from jury service.
Another jury panel member was excused in the afternoon when he said he had formed opinions about the case already. In the morning, he stated his wife worked at Skiff Medical Center, and he had donated money to the Shine family as part of a Skiff fundraiser. Another jury panel member was excused after she said she worked at Skiff and had cared for Danielle after her accident, which left her a paraplegic.
Nicholson asked the jury panel if anyone was unfamiliar with marijuana or methamphetamine, and no one raised their hand. While questioning the jury panel, one member admitted to being a former meth addict and that he decided to become clean after someone tried to kill him. Several other members of the jury panel said they knew people who were either current meth addicts or recovering.
In a hearing to reduce her bond, Jane Shine told the court her daughter’s fiancé, James, had become increasingly violent and had been using meth.
A single jury panel member has had previous experience on a jury. This was discussed after Nicholson asked if anyone in the panel knew Nicholson or County Attorney Michael Jacobsen. The jury he served on was for a trial prosecuted by Nicholson.
Jury selection is expected to conclude today. Addington was expected to continue his questioning of the panel this morning before both parties remove seven jurors from the panel, leaving 14. Two will be alternates. After jury selection, the prosecution will present its opening statement and evidence. Judge Hulse told the jury panel he expects the trial to last seven days.
Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.