Corrine Brown Jury Selection - Florida Politics

Corrine Brown Jury Selection

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Opening statements loom in trial of former Congresswoman’s life [Wednesday 12 p.m.] Wednesday wrapped jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Jurors will be compelled to examine witness testimony and exhibits, of which the prosecution has 49 pages of receipts, bank statements, and other documents corroborating its case that One Door was a conspiracy to defraud donors – a slush fund for Brown and her inner circle, which one by one pleaded out and turned state’s evidence, leaving her as the last defendant standing.

Both the prosecution and defense have dozens of witnesses, though prosecution witnesses tend to be material witnesses and defense witnesses seem to be more of the character witness variety.

The government will make opening statements at 1:00. The defense intends to also make a statement. These statements would be capped at one hour.

No matter what, prosecution evidence will follow thereafter.

The government can offer “rebuttal evidence” to that of the defense.

___

As the jury prepared to file in for instructions, the courtroom was split into two halves.

On the left, media on laptops; on the right, older African-American men in suits, mixed in with church ladies in John 3:16 shirts – a distillation of the base that Brown’s political machine served for a quarter-century.

Judge Timothy Corrigan, who will handle the trial that could last up to three weeks, instructed the jury in a Jacksonville accent from a slightly-bygone time: a synecdoche for the trial itself, which is as much the capstone of an era as it is the trial of a former politician.

During a recess beforehand, Brown talked to two women in their sixties, both wearing yellow, and then talked to another supporter in a dark suit. The latter conversation projected a maternal urgency, with Brown’s arm around him throughout the exchange.

What was clear: Brown’s support system was here. She seemed to be discussing court proceedings, though she was mostly inaudible.

She exited the room, kissing one of her couple of dozen supporters on the cheek.

___

Corrigan, described by most with opinions on federal judges as fair, noted that the case would be tried in 10D, with an overflow room with an audio feed of the trial.

The jury was sworn in and then given a break for lunch.

“Looks like a good jury,” Corrigan said, “you’ve been judged by all to be fair and impartial.”

“Trials aren’t like they are on TV, where things wrap up in an hour,” Corrigan added, foreshadowing “moments … when we have to stop and work out something.”

“This is a case that has the interest of the media and the public,” Corrigan said, vowing to accommodate spectator interests.

However, rules are to be followed, including no contact between jurors and media.

“You should ignore the media … the public … anyone who has opinions. Your job is to decide the case solely on the evidence you hear in the courtroom,” Corrigan said.

“It’s not easy … but that’s the way it’s got to work,” Corrigan said, emphasizing the burden of the jury to resist outside information or opinions on the case, and reminding them not to talk about the case as well.

Corrigan also reminded the jury that Brown starts off with a “clean slate,” and that her guilt must be “proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As Corrigan went through his remarks, Brown’s posture – a concerted slump – was notable, as she shifted in her chair and propped her chin in her hands at one point, her form shrouded in a loose-fitting black jacket.

Corrigan wrapped his remarks shortly after 11:45.

And with that, a pause – for reflection, for sustenance, to reset the palate – before the trial of Corrine Brown’s life.

If convicted of all 22 counts, Brown could be sentenced to 357 years in prison, and fined $4.8M.

Any prison stretch for Brown, increasingly fragile in recent months, would be tantamount to a life sentence.

8 whites, 4 blacks on jury [Wednesday 10:00 a.m.] Wednesday wrapped jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Two black males, two black females, five white males, and three white females comprise the jury, which will begin hearing opening arguments at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Juror 1: a black male from Jacksonville; Juror 2, a white male from Jacksonville; Juror 9, a black female from Jacksonville who is currently unemployed; Juror 13, a white male hair stylist from Jacksonville; Juror 17, a white female from Jacksonville; Juror 19, a black female from Jacksonville; Juror 23, a white female; Juror 26, an unemployed white Middleburg male; Juror 35, a white female from Jacksonville; Juror 39, a white male; Juror 40, a black male.

Alternates include a black female, a non-white female, a Hispanic male, and a white male.

The composition of the jury should reassure at least some of those who have concerns about the trial being slanted against Brown.

___

Here’s how we got to the final jury:

Voir Dire all but wrapped late Tuesday, but there was unfinished business: a joint motion to strike three jurors: 8, 38, and 43.

Juror 8 equivocated, said Judge Klindt, when asked about her daughter’s arrest at a department store. Juror 38, a retired cop, expressed a bias toward the FBI, and had talked with friends about the case many times. Juror 43, an African-American woman, had a sidebar yesterday that will remain sealed, yet proved dispositive.

Juror 27, an Asian-American male whose son had an interest in discussing the trial with him, was brought back for questioning. The juror’s son said Brown “probably would be convicted,” and discussed specifics of the case.

“He’s a chatterbox, he continued talking,” 27 said. “He’s a teenager.”

Brown’s attorney quipped that 27’s son would be a good attorney; a joint motion to strike followed.

From there, Wednesday morning saw preemptory challenges of the larger jury pool from U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva and Defense Attorney James Smith, leading toward a final jury that will decide Brown’s fate.

Smith got ten challenges; Duva got six.

Smith bounced Jurors 3, a white female, and 4, another white female.

Duva was up next, and struck Juror 16, a white female.

Smith then had two more strikes: Juror 5, a white male, and Juror 10, another white male.

Duva then had his turn: Juror 18, a black female who works as a babysitter.

Smith then cut two: Juror 24, a white female from Yulee, and 34, a white male and former military police officer.

Duva cut Juror 37, a retired white male from Jacksonville. And then Juror 36, a male who was not white.

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Wednesday will wrap jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a jury by the end of the day, but if not we’ll have to spill over into the next day,” Judge James Klindt warned after lunch.

Despite best effort, Klindt’s words were prophetic.

It was dinnertime by the time the voir dire questioning was wrapped, and after a five-minute recess that lasted fifteen, U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva and Brown’s defense attorney, James Smith, Judge Klindt discussed “complications” that would prevent jury selection Tuesday evening.

Jury selection will wrap at 9:00 a.m., with cause challenges and preemptory challenges, ahead of a 10:00 jury arrival.

The jury could be seated by late-morning, paving the way toward Judge Timothy Corrigan giving instructions, with opening statements in Courtroom 10D at 1:00 p.m.

For a complete summation of the last two days of jury selection, please read our standalone article that takes you from the beginning to the end each day.

Jury selection spills into third day [5:00 p.m., Tuesday]: Tuesday continued the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a jury by the end of the day, but if not we’ll have to spill over into the next day,” Judge James Klindt warned after lunch.

It was dinnertime by the time the voir dire questioning was wrapped, and after a five-minute recess that lasted fifteen, U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva and Brown’s defense attorney, James Smith, Judge Klindt discussed “complications” that would prevent jury selection this evening.

Jury selection would begin at 9:00 a.m., with cause challenges and preemptory challenges, ahead of a 10:00 jury arrival.

The jury could be seated by late-morning, paving the way toward Judge Corrigan giving instructions, with opening statements in Courtroom 10D at 1:00 p.m.

___

Of course, it was a long road to the end of the day.

Klindt started proceedings in the final segment of the day shortly before 3:30.

Questions began for the assembled, regarding employment by law enforcement agencies, either of them or of relatives.

Juror 4 had a relative in law enforcement in Maryland. Another juror has a son who works Beach Patrol in Daytona.

Juror 39 has a relative who worked for a sheriff’s office out west 15 years ago. Another juror’s deceased father worked in law enforcement in Connecticut. Still another juror’s father-in-law worked in law enforcement, including as an investigator for a former State Attorney.

Yet another juror’s relative works in corrections. And still another’s father-in-law works in federal law enforcement. And still another has a brother working in IT for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. And still another has two cousins, and some friends, in law enforcement.

All but the last one indicated no potential bias.

When asked if they had been victims of crime, including fraud, some also indicated a yes.

The crimes, which ranged from assault and murder of two different jurors’ relatives to identity theft, would not impact the jurors’ partiality, they said.

When asked if they or close friends or relatives had been investigated by law enforcement, one former law enforcement officer had to testify to a Grand Jury.

“I wasn’t happy about it, but that was the end of it,” the potential juror said, indicating – with a bite to his voice – that he could be fair “to both sides” in the case.

Jurors who had dealt with FBI or IRS agents in investigations likewise disclaimed the potential that those inquiries would bias them.

When asked if they had “strong feelings” about the FBI or IRS, no juror said yes. Likewise, a question regarding beliefs that would impact the ability to serve on the jury in this case got a no.

Discussion turned to plea bargains, which are “lawful and proper” according to the Judge, but with caveats.

Klindt urged that testimony from those who have pleaded out, such as alleged Brown co-conspirators Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons, should be treated with “caution” given the circumstances.

All potential jurors understood.

From there, individual questions for selected jurors followed.

___

Juror 15 had to address his background in law enforcement, which included investigations into political figures. The government and the defense agreed to strike him on grounds of potential bias.

Juror 21, who teaches HVAC for the Florida Department of Corrections, discussed his potential bias.

“I’m around inmates all day long,” he said. “All of them tell you they were right and law enforcement was wrong.”

He too was struck.

Juror 71, who has friends and relatives in law enforcement in Chicago and Jacksonville, indicated bias toward law enforcement “not in this case … but in other situations.”

When asked if she would privilege LEO testimony, she couldn’t be “100 percent truthful,” as she would “tend to want to believe them more.”

She too was struck by joint motion of the government and the defense, with Klindt describing her as “emotional on the subject.”

Juror 9 had a private “sidebar” conversation with the judge and counsel, describing being a victim of a crime. Privacy interests will keep that conversation under seal, and she was not struck.

Juror 1 had two cousins and two friends who were arrested over the years, for charges including drug possession, murder, and multiple counts of molestation.

“They did what they did,” Juror 1 said, saying that they were treated fairly and his impartiality would not be compromised.

Juror 1 was the 35th juror of the 36 needed.

Juror 8’s sister faced retail theft charges a couple of years back, and ended up with community service after a not guilty plea.

She said she was able to put that situation out of her mind.

“I think so, because I don’t know anything about this case,” she said.

Judge Klindt was less than convinced, wanting to ensure that she could give “the government and Ms. Brown a fair trial.”

Juror 12 was next, and his issue was that in 1974, “a man pistolwhipped [his] brother” and in 1977, the same man assaulted his brother at a fish camp.

The brother exacted revenge, shooting up the gentleman’s truck, and served a short jail stretch, 12 said.

“It wasn’t the government’s fault,” he said when asked.

Juror 19 likewise had a history with crime: her brother was convicted of attempted manslaughter in the early 1980s.

Despite this, she asserted that her objectivity would be unaffected.

Juror 34 also discussed the impact of criminal conviction on his inner circle.

His son “got in trouble,” threatening some people. He got probation, went to California, and then went to jail.

“They did what they had to do because they had no record. I blame his mother … she had nothing in writing” from the probation officer authorizing transcontinental travel.

34 would not be affected by this, however, in terms of jury service.

Juror 36 was up next. His middle daughter had shoplifted as a youth. The ordeal would not impact his impartiality, he said.

Juror 37 then had his turn. In a bad marriage, he was arrested; his wife accused him of domestic violence. Charges were soon dropped.

“It was a lesson learned,” he said. “I’d never been in trouble… it was [horrible] to be charged for something for which I knew I was innocent.”

Juror 43, an African-American woman, was up next. She was “arrested several times” in her life, and discussed it in sidebar. After a few minutes, she walked out of the courtroom … ostensibly struck.

Juror 45’s younger brother has a history of repeated arrests, with a stroke at the age of 50 ending his history of DUI arrests, retail thefts, and so on.

“I’m sure he was treated fairly” by law enforcement, 45 said.

Juror 49 had a friend arrested 40 years ago, perhaps for assault. This would not prejudice her, she said.

Juror 52, an African-American woman, was sidebarred, and walked out of the courtroom.

Juror 53’s mother was arrested for embezzlement in Bunnell in the early 1990s, and convicted of a felony. She pleaded out and paid restitution, the juror said.

As well, her son was popped for reckless driving, after which he pleaded no contest and got probation.

Juror 56’s brother was convicted of insurance fraud in 1985 and served probation. 56 believes his brother was “not treated unfairly,” and could be impartial, he said.

Juror 61 was arrested just after her college graduation, after “way too much to drink.”

“I blacked out and the next thing I knew I was in jail.”

Community service followed, and jail, 61 claimed, was “horrifying” and “gender biased,” with her handcuffed to a bench followed by solitary confinement.

Despite that, she believes the case itself was handled fairly. And she said she could be fair in this case.

Juror 62 was next. She was arrested at the age of 20 for lying to a police officer. Charges were dropped, after a night in jail.

As well, she got a notice to appear for misdemeanor cannabis possession, and ended up paying “court fines and stuff like that.”

“I was happy with the outcome,” she said, and those brushes with the law would not impact her objectivity in Corrine Brown’s case.

Juror 64, mercifully, was the last to be questioned. Long ago, her current boyfriend got popped for a DUI; the record was expunged. As with most of the others, this circumstance would not affect her impartiality.

___

Jury selection moves forward [3:00 p.m.]: Tuesday continued the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

“Hopefully, we’ll have a jury by the end of the day, but if not we’ll have to spill over into the next day,” Judge James Klindt warned.

Progress toward the goal of completing jury selection by end of day was made, with 53 jurors selected for further questioning and vetting ahead of the afternoon session.

Many who made that cut were not consumers of news media, and therefore were at an advantage – in terms of jury selection – compared to those who consume political stories in the newspaper or on television and the internet.

Potential jurors entered the courtroom shortly after 1 p.m. for two parts of inquiry, the first part of which involved a recitation of information on the juror questionnaire.

The jurors ran the gamut of life experience: men and women, white, black, Hispanic and Asian. Blue collar, white collar, and – in a sign of the fading job market – no collar.

Questions that led to drill down from the judge included previous jury experience, military service, and educational background. Potential jurors hailed from as far away as Melbourne, hours away on I-95.

Twelve of those questioned Tuesday had served on juries, though none of them on a federal jury. Educational backgrounds ranged from high school graduation to graduate studies. Some were employed; some were not.

For potential jurors, questions emerged on employment statuses for children – though for one juror, Klindt relented from questions about employment status of a spouse divorced three decades ago.

Juror 15’s experience in law enforcement was brought up as a potential strike, with his response – “I believe in integrity” – causing Klindt to ask if the juror could be objective.

After saying he would favor law enforcement, Klindt said there would be additional questions.

Juror 16, when asked about whether she could be fair, said that this was a “civil case.”

When told Brown’s was actually a criminal case, 16 said “that one was bad.”

Klindt’s voice sounded the now-familiar arc of concern in talking to her, but he did not promise her more questions.

Juror 21, a white male who lives in Lawtey and teaches HVAC at a state prison, was asked if he could be fair given his employment with the state Department of Corrections. More questions were promised to him.

Juror 27, an Asian-American male who manages online security at a mortgage company, noted that Corrine Brown was the first thing his son – who has an interest in law – discussed with him last night.

27 shooed his son away, in compliance with a court order to jurors not to discuss the case.

Juror 34, a Palm Coast resident and married retiree, was asked about his guard duties in the military police.

“I was mainly a desk sergeant,” he said.

Juror 41, a white male from Fernandina Beach, has a master’s degree in taxation, and spent his career in that field as well – an interesting convergence, given that multiple counts of this case are related to taxation.

Klindt was more interested in 41’s experience on a jury than his taxation background.

Juror 74, a woman studying to be a paralegal, was asked if there was drill down into criminal law; as of yet, no.

Juror 75 works as a chief information officer for a major Jacksonville company, one whose management likely would know some of the people on the witness list – however, no questions were asked.

Most of those questioned, however, had backgrounds that did not bear deeper inquiry from Judge Klindt.

___

From there, general questions were asked.

Two jurors revealed that they worked for the same major Jacksonville company, thus knowing each other. Each contended that the other’s opinion wouldn’t be prejudicial.

One juror has a sister-in-law who was a state prosecutor a few years back. They discussed cases and process.

Two jurors mentioned potentially prejudicial opinions regarding law enforcement; they were promised additional questions from Judge Klindt.

When asked if they or someone close to them had ever been charged with a crime, Yes’s peppered the room – too many for a reliable count. The same held true for those who had been witnesses in court cases other than divorce proceedings. And those who had been parties to a lawsuit.

Those who had been parties to lawsuits, by and large, had injury/liability cases – all said their impartiality would not be affected.

Beyond those exceptions, the answers were pro forma, asserting belief in jury trial, the right to remain silent, and the principle of presumed innocence.

African-American males, by and large, were underrepresented in the pool –  there were just three in a group of dozens.

There were, however, seven African-American women.

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Prelim jury selection wraps; 53 selected for next round [Tuesday, 11:40 a.m.]: Tuesday morning continued the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Progress toward the goal of completing jury selection by end of day was made.

As on Monday, the specter of pre-trial publicity loomed over the questioning, with negative reports in the media, addressing the matters of One Door and Brown’s career overall, influencing potential jurors to a degree that they – or Brown’s attorney, James Smith – believed they couldn’t be objective.

Screening, as on Monday, revealed the difficulty of getting a locally-sourced jury in such a high-profile case. Klindt wanted a pool of 52 qualified jurors.

He got 53. And will need them, as attorneys reserve the right for further strikes, and as a pool of jurors and alternates is required.

Initial screening of Tuesday’s batch of 30 potential jurors, the vast majority of whom were white, revealed 19 potential conflicts that could lead to striking, with some falling into more than one category.

17 potential jurors knew of the case from the media or other sources. Six jurors had “strong feelings” one way or another about the former Congresswoman. And one juror knew Corrine Brown personally.

Additionally, there are six claims of “hardship”, three who personally knew FBI or IRS agents, one potential juror who knew Trial Judge Timothy Corrigan, and one who knows a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

All of those with potential conflicts were to be subject to individual questioning from Judge James Klindt.

Jurors, one by one, were asked about publicity, hardship, and feelings about Brown in more detail, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

__

Three jurors were to be struck.

Juror 66 indicated “strong feelings” about Brown, as her “circle of influence” has discussed the former Congresswoman to such a degree that she feels like she would be “prejudiced” against her.

Juror 67, who had declared a hardship, somehow brought up a case involving the Clinton Global Initiative in declaring bias. During that juror’s rambling disquisition, Brown’s attorney looked back at media with a quizzical expression.

“My mind cannot comprehend,” she said, continuing to conflate CGI and the case of Corrine Brown.

Juror 70, a Caucasian millennial in a t-shirt and gold chain, had seen a local newscast’s web article.

“When you read something on media, they have a way of putting it like they’re already judged,” 70 said. “In your mind, you’re trying to keep everything out. But it still comes in.”

A joint motion to strike from the government and the defendant followed.

53 jurors survived the initial questioning, and will move on to the next round of selection. Many who were questioned, on both Monday or Tuesday, were not consumers of news media; unencumbered by knowledge or bias, they made the cut for further questioning after lunch break.

___

Will jury selection wrap on schedule? [Tuesday  10:40 a.m. ]: Tuesday morning saw the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

Judge James Klindt said 44 potential jurors were coming back today. But more jurors were needed.

The goal: getting 50 people who aren’t challenged for cause … meaning six additions were needed.

Up to 30 potential jurors were in the building to be questioned today, to get the necessary six additions, and questions (as on Monday) would include knowledge of the parties, the witness, the case, and opinions on former Rep. Brown.

As on Monday, the specter of pre-trial publicity loomed over the questioning, with negative reports in the media, addressing the matters of One Door and Brown’s career overall, influencing potential jurors to a degree that they – or Brown’s attorney, James Smith – believed they couldn’t be objective.

As on Monday, Klindt emphasized that guilt, in this case, was “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and based on case evidence rather than presupposition.

Screening, as on Monday, revealed the difficulty of getting a locally-sourced jury in such a high-profile case.

Initial screening of Tuesday’s batch of 30 potential jurors, the vast majority of whom were white, revealed 19 potential conflicts that could lead to striking, with some falling into more than one category.

17 potential jurors knew of the case from the media or other sources. Six jurors had “strong feelings” one way or another about the former Congresswoman. And one juror knew Corrine Brown personally.

Additionally, there are six claims of “hardship”, three who personally knew FBI or IRS agents, one potential juror who knew Trial Judge Timothy Corrigan, and one who knows a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

All of those with potential conflicts would be subject to individual questioning.

 ___

Jury selection continues Tuesday: With Monday clearing out many of the jurors who doubted their own ability to be objective, Tuesday was expected to finalize jury selection.

Tuesday morning commenced the second day of jury selection in the federal fraud trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who faces 22 counts related to a non-performing charity, “One Door for Education.”

With 39 jurors of the original 65-person jury pool having some knowledge of the case coming in, 18 jurors were struck from the poll Monday for having formed opinions already, and others excused for hardship reasons.

Judge James Klindt said 44 potential jurors were coming back today. But more jurors were needed.

The goal: getting 50 people who aren’t challenged for cause … meaning six additions were needed.

Brown walked in a few minutes before 9 a.m., purposefully striding in with a determined look on her face, attired in a patterned jacket and skirt set.

Klindt said that there were up to 30 potential jurors to be questioned today, to get the necessary six additions, and questions (as on Monday) would include knowledge of the parties, the witness, the case, and opinions on former Rep. Brown

Day 1 of jury selection wraps: “It’s a tedious process,” said Judge James Klindt about jury selection.

The first day is a wrap, with myriad jurors struck of those questioned – 18 dismissed for potential bias, and others excused for hardship purposes.

A second day of jury selection, meanwhile, kicks off at 9:00 a.m.

44 jurors, said Klindt, will be coming back Tuesday – 36 in total are needed.

If a juror can’t get a ride from out of town, it may be 43.

“44 gets pretty close,” Klindt said, to what is needed – but the goal is 46-50 jurors, to winnow them down to the needed number.

An additional ten jurors, give or take, will be called in, and the judge is optimistic that will complete jury selection on schedule.

_

The difficulty in finding unbiased jurors was spotlighted further, as the first of two anticipated days of jury selection in the Corrine Brown trial continued, with one juror coming from over 100 miles away.

Such distance was necessary, given familiar plaints: television media, said one longtime Jacksonville resident, educated her on the case.

“Multiple charges … scores of witnesses being called,” along with questions of where the charity’s money went and if Brown was “aware it was happening.”

Old history – such as “gifts given to Brown” decades ago, including a car given to Brown’s daughter Shantrel – also colored the potential juror’s perception, via “years of news media.”

“After a long period of time,” she added, “media sinks in.”

“I know there was wrongdoing done at some point,” the potential juror said. “I find it hard to believe that she was totally unaware.”

And she was struck.

From there, the next eight potential jurors all had been influenced by pre-trial publicity.

“I’ve just heard the name and there would be a trial and it was on the news,” said one potential juror, who had first heard about the case three weeks prior.

That low baseline of knowledge was enough to keep her from becoming the twentieth juror to be struck.

The next person to be questioned had knowledge, of sorts, coming into the case, via television news.

“Spending and money and things like that,” he said.

As well, the gentleman – who works in the educational system – has heard various different takes.

“Some say it was politics,” he said.

The preponderance of input led him to question his own objectivity in the matter.

“You can’t set that aside and listen with an open mind,” Judge Klindt asked.

After some prodding, the potential juror agreed he could do that.

Prosecutor Duva, mindful of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshold, asked for more clarification of the potential juror’s position.

Despite his struggle with the spoken word, neither attorney moved to strike him.

“As best as I can recall, some corruption in Ms. Brown’s organization,” was another prospective juror’s summation of the TV news stories he’d seen on the case.

Those stories did not form his opinion, he said. However, his wife has always been “quite favorable” to Brown, which led to follow-up questions.

“My wife and I agree and disagree on various issues. I would make a decision based on what I saw in the courtroom,” he said.

And he, likewise, was not to be struck.

“We talk about it almost every day at coffeeklatsch – there’s four of us,” an older gentleman with a law enforcement background said.

The other three opine that Brown is guilty, but not the potential juror.

“If anything happens, we’re not talking about this anymore,” he said.

Those conversations have taught the potential juror that “somebody committed fraud and has been arrested by the federal government and is going to trial.”

As well, news – as recently as Sunday – taught him about the case also.

When asked if his law enforcement background would compromise his objectivity, he said no.

Defense attorney Smith was unmollified, based on the daily discussions of the Brown case among his coffee group.

“Also the fact that he’s a retired police officer who has investigated fraud cases,” Smith said, is a factor.

The prosecutor disagreed, and Judge Klindt wanted to “explore” the potential juror further.

“He gave no indication that he had formed an opinion,” Klindt said.

Another viewer of local news asserted a belief that Brown was “not guilty,” based on her work “in the Senate.”

“What I’ve heard about it on the news. I just don’t know, honestly,” he said when asked if he could be fair in the trial.

He wavered when asked, changing answers multiple times, with his voice breaking at one point.

Both the prosecution and the defense motioned to strike.

Another consumer of print and television news outlined the parameters of the case, noting that he’d read articles on the case the last two days in the local paper.

“I would be less than honest if I said I did not doubt she was innocent based on associates of hers making deals,” the potential juror said, not being willing to guarantee objectivity “based on everything I’ve heard about Ms. Brown.”

By “everything,” the potential juror is drawing on his experience as a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, and he brought up Brown reaching out for sandbags during a hurricane.

“I’ve seen her interviews on television,” he said.

He will continue consuming media about the trial, but will not be part of the jury pool.

“It’s been all over the headlines,” one female juror said about the “fraudulent educational fund” at the center of the case.

Her husband had opinions also.

“Obviously, everyone knows who Ms. Brown is,” she said, but she has no opinion as to Brown’s innocence or guilt.

Her husband: a different matter – he believes she is guilty.

“I think the general assumption when public figures are accused of something is they’re probably guilty,” she said, which runs counter to the presumption of innocence upon which criminal justice historically is predicated.

No strike; she made the cut, after saying she could be impartial.

“Just what’s been in the paper and been on the news,” the final juror to be questioned said about what he’d heard.

His knowledge of the facts of the case: more big picture than detailed.

“Most of it seems it’s against her, not for her,” he said of the coverage. “I’m leaning more towards the guilty.”

The case has come up, he said, in “normal conversation,” and in said normal conversation with a dozen or so people, consensus of Brown’s guilt has emerged.

“There’s a lot of information I’ve already taken in,” he added.

Pre-trial publicity clouds Corrine Brown jury pool [2:45 p.m. Monday update] – Of the 65 potential jurors brought into court Monday morning, six were struck by lunch break (leaving 59 potential bodies). However, the afternoon saw more questions coming forth, as interlocutors grilled potential jurors about any obstructions to their impartiality.

11 more were struck, bringing the total to 17.

As with the previous round of questioning, there seemed to be a tacit agreement that knowledge of the case could be held, as long as it didn’t veer into opinion about the alleged scheme to defraud or of former United States Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

One potential juror noted that she knew the former chair of the Duval County Democrats, and that she was aware of the case from media and conversation.

“It was about the education charity that was set up. How much was raised, how much was put into scholarships, who was involved.”

The juror, in the past, had joked that Brown was “probably guilty.”

Judge James Klindt pressed her on the assertion, and she said she could be fair and impartial.

Brown’s attorney, James Smith, found cause to challenge her impartiality. Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva diverged, saying that she unequivocally said she could be impartial.

Klindt put her on the jury, as she was “sincere” and “credible” in asserting her impartiality.

Another potential juror was impacted by knowledge of publicity (“I follow the news closely”) and a relationship with defense witness JuCoby Pittman from Leadership Jacksonville.

Her receptiveness to that testimony, the juror said, could be weighted in Pittman’s favor.

The potential juror had a deep knowledge of the process of the case, and an opinion that Brown “could potentially be guilty.”

Smith’s cause challenge, striking her from the jury, was successful.

“You just see trolling through newsfeed and see headlines … I think they were fraud charges.”

These words, from a white millennial male “with strong political beliefs [that] weigh heavily on how you see people”, presaged an opinion: “I can’t really say why, but yeah … I would presume that she is guilty.”

“I’ve read a few things … I know that she handed out ice cream to her supporters last week,” he said.

This juror likewise was struck, with Smith calling his response “disturbing” and pointing to “very strong political views” as a red flag.

“It’s been in the headlines … I read the newspaper every day,” said another potential juror.

Once she got the summons, she stopped reading about the case – cognizant that she may be called for this jury.

“I knew there were charges against the Congresswoman,” the potential juror added.

However, the woman had no opinion on Brown’s guilt. And she met with the satisfaction of both attorneys.

“What I do recall is the defendant on the news being shown in a negative light.”

These words, from a man who moved to the Jacksonville area years ago, framed the case for this potential juror, who did also read the front page of the paper.

“A fellow potential juror opened it up beside me … I looked over and saw that jury selection begins this morning,” he said.

His opinion: “the charges and allegations … have been brought with good reason.”

Duva attempted to parse the potential juror’s words, with regard to whether or not he could be objective.

Smith was a bit sharper with his questions, which compelled the potential juror to admit that he wasn’t sure if he could be objective.

A challenge for cause followed, with the state contending the potential juror had “rehabilitated” himself.

The judge went with the defense.

Another potential juror, with her narrative framed from television news, asserted a belief that Brown was guilty because of “things from the past.”

That potential juror would “try” to put aside preconceptions, but could offer no guarantees. The strike, however, was guaranteed.

“If Corrine Brown had been a Republican,” the potential juror said, “she would not be in this court today.”

This quote, from another potential juror, was a reprieve from the parade of people who deemed Brown guilty based on television newscasts.

“I support Corrine Brown … she has been a great Congresswoman, as far as I’m concerned,” the potential juror – active in protest movements – said.

When asked if she could set aside her political beliefs, she said she could – but it would be difficult.

That didn’t convince Duva, who cited the potential juror’s “very strong feelings” for Brown, and requested (and got) a strike.

“I understand that there is a lot of money is gone and someone has taken it … various people want the money back,” said another potential juror.

Her husband has “stronger opinions” on the case than she does, but both believe Brown is guilty.

Despite that, and having personal issues to deal with, she expressed a wavering confidence that she could set aside her opinions – and avoid input from her husband.

That said, if Brown were found not guilty, she would likely have to discuss the matter with her husband … “unless [the judge] decided I could never talk about this for the rest of my life or something.”

__

A final potential juror brought forth a number of issues, including strong feelings about Brown and knowledge of two witnesses, Steve Pajcic and John Delaney.

He had a hardship as well, as one of two principals in a two-person law firm.

He won’t be part of this trial.

High-profile case influences jury pool [12:30 p.m. Monday update] – As Federal Judge James Klindt worked through the pool of potential jurors, individual questions began before the lunch recess.

These questions illustrated the interrelationship between media, politicians, and the general public in Jacksonville, described by locals often as a “really big small town.”

Much of the questioning, from the judge and the lawyers, came down to trying to ascertain whether a baseline knowledge of the case equaled an inability to be an objective juror.

All told, six jurors (one black, five white) were struck from a 65 person jury pool consisting of 44 white people, 15 African-Americans, and one Asian-American.

One conflicted potential juror cited a local television news operation as having informed him of the case, telling him about “fundraising and funds, stuff like that.”

That information did not influence his opinion regarding Brown’s guilt or innocence. Neither side moved to strike the juror.

A second potential juror cited “different things on the media,” such as Ronnie Simmons “testifying against her,” as his baseline knowledge, accrued “over the last month.”

That juror is “leaning toward the guilty side,” after pre-trial coverage.

Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva asked follow-up questions, and the prospective juror cited Brown’s conduct as a politician as a reason he doesn’t feel comfortable.

That was enough for James Smith, who moved to challenge the potential juror’s inclusion.

Another juror, who had been exposed to publicity and had strong feelings about Brown, was asked to explain.

“I get the newspaper and I read it cover to cover every day … I have already made my decision,” the potential juror said.

“Her chief of staff has already plead guilty … her own daughter will plead the Fifth,” the potential juror asserted.

The son of an FBI agent asserted that “people are brought up for a reason,” asserting a potential conflict on his end.

“It’s hard to be impartial,” he said, “difficult to see the negativity in the news and be unbiased.”

The potential juror told a story of a fraudulent charity, with narrative filled in by television news that has been “out there for I don’t know how many months.”

Smith drilled down in questions, asking whether the potential juror would be biased against an argument that “the FBI is less than trustworthy.”

The potential juror, citing background checks and belief in his father, could not.

“I would side with the FBI,” he said, in what Smith called a “credibility contest.”

Unsurprisingly, Smith advanced a challenge with cause of this potential juror also.

Still another person described social media and local news as factors who could influence his thinking, noting “locker-room talk” about the trial from “friends and coworkers who do have opinions.”

That potential juror is “leaning more toward the guilty side,” based on external input.

That juror likewise occasioned a cause challenge from Brown’s barrister.

___

Not every potential juror was so conflicted.

And yet another person described the influence of Facebook’s “live feed” on his consumption of case information, regarding “ethical charges” against Brown.

“I think everyone deserves a fair trial,” he said.

Another juror, who had spent time with Corrine Brown in a corporate stadium skybox two years ago, said he could be impartial.

A third juror had had social interaction with Brown at corporate parties over the years.

“I don’t believe so,” the juror said when asked if it would affect her impartiality.

Questions came forth as to whether the juror’s spouse “consulted” with Brown on business matters, but the juror was satisfactory to both the prosecution and the defense.

Still another potential juror was exposed to the case via media, with his sister-in-law telling him “there was a lady caught stealing money, and that’s where you’re going” before jury selection.

He hadn’t given the case much thought beyond that exchange, and said he could be impartial. That was good enough for both attorneys.

Similar questions for various jurors will continue throughout Monday afternoon.

___

Party of 65: questions for jurors begin [11:15 a.m. Monday] – As the first wave of jurors entered for voir dire questioning, Corrine Brown studied their entrances, pursing her lips and then looking down, as if clearing her visual palate, between each entrance.

Black and white and Asian, old and younger, the jurors entered – many of them dressed in an approximation of court-appropriate apparel.

Of the 65, 49 were white, 14 African-American, and one Asian-American.

After the first few dozen entered, Brown began to stare at them en masse – as if registering that she was looking at people who would decide her fate.

Her legacy.

Her eyes registered that rueful glint familiar to those who have covered her in recent months, since the One Door story obliterated her career in Washington.

The 65 potential jurors seated, proceedings moved forward shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, with the foregoing illustrating the difficulty of finding jurors who lacked real, potentially prejudicial knowledge of Brown and the One Door for Education case.

Judge Klindt, a 31-year veteran of the federal bench, noted the threshold for guilt is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a meaningful distinction in a paper-heavy case rooted in competing and sometimes inherently contradictory narratives.

“Perhaps you have had occasion to be critical of it … but for all its faults, the American justice system is respected throughout the world,” Klindt said.

The jury, said Klindt, would not be sequestered – allowing the members to return home at the end of each day in the trial, which “could spill over into a fourth week.”

When the pool was asked about “extraordinary hardships” that would preclude participation, 13 indicated such.

When asked if anyone knew about the case through pre-trial publicity, 39 hands popped up, some after a delay that suggested deliberating the question.

When members were asked if they knew Trial Judge Corrigan, two hands came up.

Attorneys made their introductions: A. Tysen Duva for the prosecution, who introduced fellow U.S. attorneys and law enforcement; James Smith for the defense, who introduced Corrine Brown, drawing a “good morning” from some potential jurors.

Other jurors answered questions regarding knowledge of people from the FBI, IRS, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other potential conflicts.

When asked if they knew Brown from a “social relationship,” two of the 65 indicated such.

When asked if any had lent political support or opposition to Brown, no such conflicts existed.

And, when asked if they had “strong feelings” about Brown, three jurors indicated such, though they did not give their disposition in initial questioning.

From there, the roll call of those testifying – another factor which could prejudice jurors.

Among those who were known to jurors: Siottis Jackson, a political operative for Brown; Ronnie Simmons, Brown’s former co-defendant who pleaded out and is cooperating with prosecution; and John Delaney, a former Jacksonville Mayor.

Judge Klindt urged jurors not to discuss the case, including via phone conversations on Blackberry, Snapchat, and other modern-ish conveyances.

___

Jury selection [9:18 a.m. Monday update]: Jury selection in the trial of former Rep. Brown began at 9:30 Monday morning in Courtroom 13A of Jacksonville’s federal courthouse.

A question going into this phase of the trial for Brown, one of the most polarizing figures in Jacksonville political history, was finding 12 jurors who weren’t aware of who she was and about the parameters of this high-stakes case.

Brown wore all black as she entered the courtroom shortly before 9:00 a.m., her face impassive.

Judge James Klindt kicked proceedings of the Voir Dire phase off, with A. Tysen Duva representing the government and James Smith representing the defendant.

Klindt was charged with selecting the jury, and noted the potential impacts of hardship for the initial 65 person jury pool.

Beyond hardships, knowing lawyers or principals in the case would also be a disqualifying factor, Klindt noted.

Also a potential ground for disqualification: having a strong opinion on Brown, or any knowledge of the case gleaned from the media.

“What I am trying to do is not have answers to these questions taint other jurors,” Klindt noted.

The goal: coming up with 36 jurors, including alternates and potential “strikes” for both sets of lawyers.

“I’m hoping we can come up with 45,” Klindt said, who were not initially disqualified.

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