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Community News Network

February 20, 2013

No jury yet in Techel trial

OTTUMWA — Jury selection in Seth Techel's murder trial continued Wednesday after taking all of Tuesday, and it's not yet finished.

A total of 75-80 people were present Tuesday morning as potential jurors, but that number was whittled down to a pool of 35 as the day wore on. Those 35 prospective jurors faced more detailed questioning. Some were dismissed, replaced by others to keep the number attorneys in the case had to choose from at 35.

The process continued Wednesday morning. The day began with an extensive discussion with the attorneys and Judge Daniel Wilson in chambers. Two potential jurors were dismissed following that discussion.

 Prosecutors worked until about 11 a.m. to establish whether the prospective jurors had already come to conclusions about the case, or about themselves. Scott Brown of the Iowa Attorney General's office told those gathered that one of the goals was to ensure there was no home field advantage for a local attorney as compared to someone from the state.

Techel's attorney is Steven Gardner, who is based in Ottumwa.

Any number of issues can lead to a person being dismissed from service. If the attorneys find during their questioning that someone is too close to a defendant or witness, that person won't be seated on the final jury. The same is often true if a prospective juror or family member was victim of a crime similar to the one being tried.

Such "for cause" dismissals are unlimited. Attorneys also have a limited number of "strikes," which they may use to dismiss a person without stating a reason.

Having made up your mind about the case already is also a concern. Gardner asked early in the defense questioning whether anyone had already concluded Techel was guilty. One man raised his had. The man had not been dismissed when the court broke for lunch.

Gardner began his examination of the jury pool at about 11:10 a.m. It is not clear how long is left, though he indicated the process will consume much of the afternoon.

The jury in Techel's trial will eventually consist of 12 jurors and three alternates.

Techel is charged with first degree murder and non-consensual termination of a pregnancy. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

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