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56 Jurors Grilled in Jack Venice Rape Trial

Washington- Jury selection for the Christopher Jack Reid case should finish around noon today, the presiding judge said Monday. Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier grilled 56 potential jurors about their ability to be impartial during the trial. Each juror also filled out a preliminary questionnaire.

“You must follow the court’s instruction of the law, regardless of if your opinions or beliefs differ from the law,” Frazier said. “We are not asking you these questions to pry into your personal lives. We’re asking to try to have a fair, balanced jury here.” Reid, an adult film actor, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree rape, a charge of first-degree burglary, two charges of residential burglary and a charge of attempted residential burglary.

The alleged incidents occurred Sept. 13, 2007 on College Hill in Pullman. Reid could face more than six years in prison for the rape charge alone.

Kyle M. Schott, a former WSU student who was with Reid the night of the alleged crimes, has since agreed to a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and second-degree burglary. Schott will testify against Reid as one of about 40 potential witnesses.

Earlier this month, Schott was sentenced to 13 months in state prison, about five of which he has served while in custody, Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy said.

Of the 56 potential jurors, Frazier released 16 for various reasons Monday. Some of the jurors said their experiences and views about pornography would not allow them to give Reid a fair trial. Others were overly familiar with many of the witnesses, Frazier said.

Because of the nature of the case, Frazier asked all but three of the potential jurors individually about their experiences with the adult film industry, unwanted sexual conduct and media coverage of the alleged incident.

He asked if they could be fair, unbiased and impartial when weighing the evidence. Many weren’t sure. “I can be a big girl about this, but it would be difficult,” juror No. 25 said. “I find the whole issue disturbing and very unnerving.” When one juror said she could have problems being sympathetic, defense attorney Chris Bugbee said the case was too important to be unsure. He repeatedly told jurors they would have to separate emotions from the evidence.

“What we want is an important decision to not be based on an emotional reaction,” he said. “We want cases to be decided based upon the evidence and the rational analysis of how these factors apply to the facts.” Frazier excused some jurors for potential bias within minutes. Others carefully weighed before the court their own feelings and a desire to be impartial regardless. After eight hours, Frazier instructed the remaining jurors to return today without discussing the case with anyone. Frazier also prohibited them from reading, listening or watching anything regarding the case in the media.

“We want to make sure we are very careful and cautious,” Frazier said.

Reid sat quietly during the trial, occasionally turning to glance at his family and a woman in the audience with whom he held hands during the recess. Few jurors made eye contact with Reid while being questioned. Upon completion of the questioning, Frazier thanked candidates for being honest about their own possible biases and preconceptions.

“This is what this session is all about,” he said.

After the jury is selected today, Tracy will give his decision regarding a piece of evidence. If he decides to use that evidence, the court may hold a hearing about whether that evidence is admissible. He said he could not disclose the nature of the evidence.

Frazier said opening statements will follow the decision on that issue.

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