Jury selection for a trial in Jackson County, in which the three men are accused of conspiring to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, entered a second day on Tuesday as attorneys took extra precautions to sit the candidates who had no personal conflicts.
Joe Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar are charged with providing material support for a terrorist act, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution also alleges they were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a paramilitary group it called a gang.
On Monday, dozens of potential jurors filled the courtroom in Jackson’s nearly century-old courthouse. They were interviewed by lawyers who sought to weed out candidates who might favor one side or the other. By the end of the day, Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson had dismissed many of them.
One of the highest-profile domestic terrorism cases in the nation, there have already been two federal trials related to the kidnapping plan.
In both of these trials, experts noted, jury selection was key.
The first federal trial resulted in the acquittal of two suspects, and the all-white jury could not rule on two others. During the second trial, a more racially diverse jury was chosen. He decided to condemn; however, a juror also became the center of controversy.
During that trial, reported the Free Press, the defense asked U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker to dismiss a juror because he argued that the person may have been biased. It was alleged that the juror would seek a guilty verdict if selected.
The judge, however, dismissed the request after questioning the person, concluding that there was no bias.
The court and attorneys hope to avoid any mishaps or controversy during the state’s trial.
As well as eliminating potentially biased candidates from the jury, the process also tended to hint at the arguments and evidence that would be presented, with the defense noting that the men are not charged with uttering threats but that some evidence will sound repugnant, a reference to provocative remarks about harming law enforcement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Potential jurors reduced in Whitmer’s Jackson conspiracy trial