Twelve people with mixed feelings about the death penalty were picked Monday to decide if professor-turned-hermit Theodore Kaczynski is the Unabomber.
“Do we have our jury at this moment?” asked U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr., after lawyers conducted a silent and secretive final selection process.
The two sides took 1-1/2-hours taking turns excusing prospective jurors, capping five weeks of jury selection in which some 170 people were questioned exhaustively about their attitudes toward the defendant, the death penalty and mental illness.
Jurors’ identities were kept secret and they were referred to only by numbers. Burrell has ruled that they will serve anonymously, an order that has been challenged by the news media.
The 12 jurors - nine women and three men - and six alternates included several people who cited religion as a factor in their decision-making and a few who have friends and relatives in law enforcement.
“Only God can decide that,” one woman said when questioned about the death penalty. “That’s how I was raised.”
Another said life imprisonment is a worse punishment, that she doesn’t believe capital punishment “stops other murders.”
A third juror said she believes serial killers should be executed “just so they don’t do it again.” And a male juror said, “I believe the death penalty can be justified.”
Dr. Robert Gordon, who runs a jury consulting firm in Dallas, described the panel selected Monday as a victory for both sides, since the jurors’ backgrounds and statements suggest they like following rules but are ambivalent about capital punishment.
“It’s a government jury for guilt … and a defense jury for the death penalty,” Gordon said.
Monday’s climatic jury selection session was marked by secrecy. Using what is known as “the Arizona system” for the peremptory challenges, defense lawyers and prosecutors did not speak and were not even in the same room. The challenges, which allow lawyers to excuse a juror without saying why, were made on papers carried between the two sides by the judge’s clerk.
Those chosen were not present in court and were to be notified by phone to report for opening statements on Jan. 5, one week later than originally scheduled.