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Herman Thomas Trial Scheduled to Begin Friday

Alabama- from – After releasing four jury panels just after lunch, Special Judge Claude Neilson announced opening statements in the Herman Thomas trial are expected to begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Thomas is going to trial for allegedly forcing and sometimes exchanging sexual favors for leniency on sentences.

The four jury panels consisted of roughly 45 individuals who all applauded upon hearing the news of their release.

Several others were let go throughout the day for reasons ranging from making donations at a campaign in support of the defendant to not following the instructions given by Neilson to not watch TV reports on the case.

The juror who made donations to a rally that consisted of a yard and bake sale had also at one time been a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, the same fraternity Thomas belongs to. He also had a relative who belonged to the same sorority as Thomas’ wife.

When asked about the donation he made in Thomas’ support, the juror said he wasn’t aware the rally was to raise money for the defendant.

“I’ll do anything to help the church any way I can,” he said.

When asked if he thought he was capable of delivering a fair verdict based on the facts presented, he said yes.

The second full day of jury selection consisted of the prosecution probing members of the different jury panels as to whether they had any ties to Herman Thomas or his family, as well as asking panel members who had been victims or were related to any victims of violent crimes if their experiences would affect their judgment.

The defense probed panel members regarding their exposure to the case through different media outlets and their ability to make a decision based on the prosecution’s ability to present proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defense attorney Jeff Deen was asking the question because in the American justice system, the defense does not need to present any evidence to prove a defendant’s innocence, a sentiment Neilson began repeating to the different panels throughout the day.

“What if the defense doesn’t bring forth witnesses?” Deen asked of jurors who responded to an earlier question with a statement generally expressing they like to see both sides of a story before they make a decision.

“A defendant is innocent until proven guilty,” Neilson said. “In the American Justice system the burden falls on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

Neilson said he would not be making a decision on two motions made by lead prosecutor Nicki Patterson regarding expert witnesses.

“I’ve taken them under advisement,” Neilson said. “But I’m not making a decision till the testimony is applicable.”

One motion requested the testimony of a clinical psychologist who specializes in fetish and sexually abusive behavior while the other was a request to have judges from around the state including current Presiding Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Charles Graddick, explain a judge’s role in the courtroom and what behavior is appropriate for a person in Thomas’ one-time position.

Some of the judges will also testify as fact witness, Patterson said, adding that conversations the judges had with Thomas and observations the judges had made in the past will likely be questioned.

The jury is expected to consist of 16 total jurors with 12 primary and four alternates.


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