RICHLAND - A second round of potential jurors in the murder-for-hire trial of James Henrikson were questioned Tuesday by attorneys, as the number of potential members of the panel deciding his guilt dwindled slightly to around 110 people.
The final group of about 20 potential jurors who'd indicated they may have heard something about the deaths of Douglas Carlile, Kristopher Clarke or the business deals that prosecutors say led to their deaths at Henrikson's command received a battery of similar questions Tuesday morning, mostly about their recollection of details and whether they'd be able to set aside preconceived notions of guilt to serve on the panel.
"There's a lot of information, and misinformation, that's being posted on these sites about this case," said Judge Salvador Mendoza, after spending an evening reviewing social media coverage of the case. Several potential jurors said their exposure to the alleged contract killings, tied to business deals gone awry on the oilfields of the Bakken shale, was primarily through Facebook.
"It's a revelation to us all, how much information is on social media," said Mark Vovos, one of Henrikson's attorneys, after a juror who claimed to have read some about the case on Facebook was excused after saying personal matters may inhibit their ability to serve impartially.
One juror remembered media reports that included a statement from the Carlile family, that Douglas Carlile told one of his sons that Henrikson would be responsible if he wound up dead. That statement will not be heard at trial, and Mendoza excused the juror following a request by Todd Maybrown, the other attorney representing Henrikson.
"He's already brought up one bit of inflammatory evidence that the court excluded," Maybrown said. "As the evidence comes in, that could ring a bell that could never be unrung."
U.S. Assistant Attorneys Aine Ahmed and Scott T. Jones did not oppose the request to excuse that juror.
After more than 30 potential jurors were questioned Monday and Tuesday regarding their previous knowledge of the case, roughly half were invited back to sit in the large jury panel expected to begin answering questions Wednesday morning. Mendoza tentatively scheduled opening statements in the trial, which is expected to last between four and seven weeks in the Tri-Cities, to begin Thursday morning.
Henrikson faces a potential life sentence if found guilty of ordering the deaths of Carlile and Henrikson, both of whom prosecutors believed died at the hands of Timothy Suckow, who will testify in the trial after pleading guilty late last year. Prosecutors believe Henrikson ordered Suckow to kill Carlile in his South Hill home because he had a meeting scheduled the day after the murder with an investor who would force Henrikson out of a lucrative oil drilling contract on the Fort Berthold reservation, according to court records.