Pella Chronicle

October 30, 2013

Jury seated in Techel trial

By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — MT. PLEASANT — Judge Daniel Wilson asked 16 of the 80 potential jurors to rise and take an oath. This morning, they will report to the jury room as the 12 jurors and four alternates in the murder trial of Seth Techel.

The prosecutor will read the charges. The defense will enter a plea. And it’s very likely that attorneys will start their opening arguments.

The jury wasn’t sworn in until 5:01 p.m. Tuesday, meaning it took two solid days to conduct jury selection. That’s less time than it took during the first State of Iowa v. Seth Techel trial.

The newly seated jury was ordered not to discuss the case or even listen to anyone discussing the case.

“Not even with your family,” the judge said. “Not only must your conduct as jurors be above reproach, you must avoid even the appearance of” being improper.

The second day of State of Iowa v Seth Techel was spent questioning potential jurors.

Prosecutor Andy Prosser worked to find out which of the potential 16 might suddenly up and disappear. One woman warned that her daughter, who lives with her, is going to give birth in about a month. Another has an ill father now on a feeding tube and down to 100 pounds body weight. Others owned their own business, coached a youth team or managed construction projects.

Very rarely did Judge Daniel Wilson release anyone.

A doctor expressed concern that another provider had departed their medical practice and that while the doctor was at jury selection, a dozen patients per day had been rescheduled. Prosecutor Prosser asked the judge to allow the doctor to leave. Defense attorney Steve Gardner said he was OK with that, too.

However, Judge Wilson said during jury excuse time, multiple jurors had asked to be released for work reasons. Except in one situation, he refused all work-related excuses. To be fair and consistent, Wilson said, he was going to have to deny the request to release the physician from jury duty.

When Gardner took over questioning the panel, he told potential jurors emotion or the desire to “see justice done” by making someone pay, cannot be allowed to interfere with examination and dependence upon evidence.

“It’s kind of a natural reaction. When you read the newspaper … and see who got arrested, what do you think? Do you think ... this one is innocent, and he’s probably innocent, he’s innocent and he’s innocent. Is that what you think?”

No, admitted a juror who reads the arrest reports, I think they probably did it. That’s natural, said Gardner, but it’s not what is needed from a jury. They can’t look over at the defendant’s table, see a defendant and think, “Well, he’s been arrested. He’s here in court. He must have done it.”

Gardner wanted to know who among the jury panel lived, or has lived, in a rural setting. How far outside the city, he asked. Are wildlife species frequent visitors to the property? Next he wanted to measure the level of expertise of potential jurors familiar with the use of firearms. He specifically wanted to know about pump shotguns. He also asked who among the panel of 40 had mental illness in their family, among close friends or others they interact with.

Gardner said, “I want you to be fair and impartial towards my client. That may show my bias, but there it is.”

Live twitter feed from Oct. 30 proceedings:

Tweets by @mwmilner