Judge considers Taplin jury pool

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2000

Jury selection in the trial of Joel Taplin begins today.

The New England teacher has pleaded innocent to a manslaughter charge stemming from the July death of Juneau biologist Dick Carlson. Taplin, 27, charged with being drunk when his vehicle struck Carlson, is being held at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins presided at a hearing Wednesday on the pool of jurors and whether the trial should be moved out of town.

Collins said after reading questionnaires returned by prospective jurors, she classified responses in four categories.

Twenty-three people reported no prior knowledge of the case, the judge said. Forty-one had ``heard something but formed no opinion.'' Twenty had knowledge and ``had an opinion that they could not set aside as to Taplin's guilt.'' Thirty-two said they had prior knowledge of the case and had formed an opinion but might be able to set it aside. Twelve people will sit on the jury, plus at least one alternate.

Defense attorney Thomas Nave found the jury pool ``very worrisome'' and suggested the trial convene at once in Ketchikan.

District Attorney Rick Svobodny countered, ``I don't think there is any problem with this jury panel, and we should move forward here.''

Nave's partner, defense attorney Louis Menendez, objected to the number of potential jurors who had ``lost husbands, wives or grandparents to drunk drivers.'' He also complained about media coverage of the case.

Collins said she had given potential jurors directions to help minimize outside influences.

``I directed them not to talk to one another about the case or read the newspaper or listen to radio or television - to avoid hearing anything that might impact their ability to sit (on a jury) fairly and impartially,'' she said.

After the judge reviews the results of interviews with potential jurors today and Friday, she will consider a defense motion to move the trial to another venue, as well as several fresh motions, including one to sequester the jury.

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