Outside jury for Duncan trial opposed

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 25, 2006

Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas is using the trial of the man who murdered an Idaho State Police trooper to support his argument that an outside jury isn’t needed to guarantee accused killer Joseph Duncan receives a fair trial.

Public defender John Adams said in a motion last week that he doesn’t think Duncan can get a fair trial in the county. He asked for jurors to be brought in from elsewhere.

In a memo opposing Adams’ request, Douglas cited the case of Trooper Linda Huff, who was murdered in 1998 by Scott Yager. The crime and 1999 trial generated tremendous publicity because Huff was the first female officer killed on duty in Idaho and because of the nature of the crime. She was shot execution-style in the parking lot of the ISP’s district headquarters in Coeur d’Alene.

Defense attorneys had asked that Yager’s trial be moved or that an out-of-county jury be brought in because of pretrial publicity. The judge denied the request.

Adams couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Douglas, who declined to elaborate, said in the court filing that the publicity in the Huff case included comments from the governor, the prosecutor and numerous letters to the editor.

For Yager’s trial, 76 jurors were questioned separately, Douglas wrote. Fifteen potential jurors were excluded because they said they had already formed an opinion on whether Yager was guilty.

Fifteen others who also said they’d formed an opinion on Yager’s guilt said they’d be willing to put those opinions aside and decide the case based on evidence, the court document said.

Douglas is proposing that the jury pool for the Duncan trial be larger than usual.

He’s also asking 1st District Judge Fred Gibler to allow individual questioning of the jurors “to ensure candor by the questioned juror and to safeguard the other jurors from any inflammatory responses.”

He said it wouldn’t be any easier to find impartial jurors in other areas of the state because of widespread coverage.

“Juror responses concerning their opinion about the allegations will be no different in Rexburg than in Coeur d’Alene,” Douglas wrote. “Juror responses concerning their knowledge and opinion of this case are likely to be similar in Boise as in Coeur d’Alene.”

Click here to comment on this story »