Twitter, Facebook comes up in Jefferson jury questioning
06:04 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News
ALEXANDRIA, Va. --The federal corruption case against former congressman William Jefferson is still without a jury.
Individual questioning of potential jurors continued on Wednesday and will now stretch into Thursday.
A calm and collected Jefferson remained tight lipped outside of federal court.
“Talk to my attorney,” Jefferson said.
But even his lawyer, Robert Trout, was a man of few words.
“I think the judge is being deliberate,” Trout said.
Wednesday marked day two of jury selection – what many had thought would be the final day in the process, but now there will soon be a day three, if not more.
The federal judge in the case, along with both the prosecution and defense, had hoped to individually interview all 90 potential jurors. But halfway through the day, the judge sent about half home and told them to come back on Wednesday since it appeared it would impossible to interview everyone.
One potential juror who was interviewed told the court she believed “large sums of money in a freezer is odd.” Jefferson’s Defense Attorney Robert Trout, moved to strike that juror, but Judge T.S. Ellis denied the request, saying the juror’s opinion does not presume guilt or innocence.
Later Trout requested the judge ask potential jurors if they’re addicted to websites like Facebook and Twitter or online blogs. The judge once again denied the request, saying “I think it’s a silly question, it’s like asking people, ‘do you use a phone?’”
Trout also requested that the judge ask potential jurors whether a congressman can be effective while on private business deals. Ellis denied the request, saying he is not going to start trying the case during jury selection.
It’s a process that continues to stretch on, all in anticipation of a complicated case that’s expected to stretch on much longer.
“I think we will hear from a lot of witnesses in this case who will talk about Mr. Jefferson’s activities,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “I think the most interesting will probably be Lauri Modie, who was the cooperating witness who first brought this case to the FBI’s attention.
"We’ll learn all about Mr. Jefferson’s activities in Africa and his efforts to bring money back to his family. One interesting impact we might see that Louisiana residents might be interested in, is how involved were Mr. Jefferson’s family members, some of whom I know are in public life in New Orleans. And it seems like they will be implicated in this trial so that will be an interesting development.”
Day three of jury selection begins Thursday at 10 a.m.
The judge has decided that won’t be any court sessions on Friday or Monday, so opening statements could start as early as Tuesday. But even the judge said he realizes after Wednesday’s slow pace, that may be pushing it.