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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

September 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ULYSSES JONES, JR., Defendant.

          ORDER ON JURY SELECTION PROCEDURES AND DAILY TRIAL SCHEDULE

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Now before the Court are Defendant's Proposed Jury-Selection Procedure seeking individual voir dire (Doc. 299), and the Government's Motion Under Federal Rule of Evidence 611 for Abbreviated Trial Schedule (Doc. 359). After carefully considering the parties' arguments and all the evidence in the record, including various affidavits, exhibits, and hearing testimony, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion and GRANTS IN PART the Government's motion for the following reasons.

         I. Jury Selection

         Plaintiff argues conducting mandatory, individualized voir dire of every member of the venire panel is a critical component to assuring Defendant a fair trial, and that it can be performed in a timely and efficient manner. The Court finds conducting individualized voir dire on such a scale is neither necessary to obtain an impartial jury in this case nor desirable because it would inordinately prolong the jury selection process. The Court will, however, use individualized voir dire where appropriate; for example, where a prospective juror indicates he or she would be more comfortable discussing his or her answer in private. The Court will also explain to the venire panel at the beginning of the jury selection process that they may answer in private if they would feel more comfortable.

         The Court will conduct jury selection as follows.

         1. After the parties respond to the pending motions to strike jurors for cause (Docs. 348, 349), the Court will rule promptly on the motions.

         2. The remaining prospective jurors will be divided into groups of approximately 40. The first group will be brought in Monday morning, September 25 at no later than 9:00 a.m. The second group will be brought in Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. The third group will be brought in Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. The fourth group will be brought in Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. A subsequent group will be brought in if necessary.

         3. The Court will conduct general voir dire on each group of 40. As part of this process, the Court will provide an overview of how voir dire works, explain the general legal concepts involved in this case (including the possibility of the death sentence and how aggravating and mitigation factors are considered), and then conduct a general voir dire. This general voir dire will cover issues on which more individualized voir dire is unnecessary, such as hardships, pretrial publicity, general bias, and prior contact with Defendant, attorneys, witnesses, and court personnel.

         4. After the general voir dire is complete, prospective jurors will be brought back to the courtroom in groups of 12-14 for individual questioning on the answers in their questionnaires and views on the death penalty.

         5. The Court will conduct most of this questioning. After the Court is finished asking questions, one attorney from each side will be given a limited opportunity to ask additional questions of these individuals.

         6. Once this questioning is complete, these jurors will be excused and challenges for cause will be made and argued. Each prospective juror who is not excused for cause will remain eligible for jury service.

         7. Steps 4 through 6 will be repeated until all 40 jurors have been excused or qualified. The Court anticipates this process will be complete by approximately 1:00 p.m.

         8. At 1:30 p.m., or as soon as possible thereafter, the Court will repeat the process will the second group. If the process is not complete by 5:30 p.m., the Court will adjourn and reconvene Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m., at which time it will continue until the process is complete.

         9. On Wednesday, the Court will repeat steps 4 through 8 with the third and fourth groups, or until 60 jurors have been qualified. If the process is not complete by 5:30 p.m., the Court will adjourn and reconvene Thursday morning at 9:00 ...


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