RICHLAND – James Henrikson’s trial was moved to the Tri-Cities to avoid seating jurors who may already have heard about the case.
But at least a half dozen of those called to serve, and perhaps many more, had at least passing knowledge of the man prosecutors say ordered the deadly shooting of Doug Carlile in December 2013 in his home on Spokane’s South Hill.
“It was scary for us, for sure,” said one potential juror, who was excused after saying Monday the “sensational headlines” she read as a Spokane Valley resident and shared with coworkers at the time of Carlile’s death might influence her judgment.
Judge Salvador Mendoza has left open the possibility of moving Henrikson’s trial once again, in the event not enough impartial jurors can be found in Richland. The courtroom is about 150 miles from where Carlile was found dead in his home, and many of those questioned Monday denied specific knowledge of the case.
The attorneys for Henrikson repeated requests of Mendoza to exclude jurors who may have heard anything about the case, a plea that moved Henrikson’s trial from Spokane late last year. Henrikson appeared in a tan suit jacket, blue dress shirt, no tie and slacks and was unshackled at the defense table.
“This is precisely the type of juror that should be excused,” said Todd Maybrown, one member of Henrikson’s defense team, after reading the responses of a potential juror who described the details of the case as “idiots being idiots” on a survey sent to prospective jurors.
“That may have been too much hyperbole on my part,” the juror said, when questioned by Maybrown what he meant by that statement. He was also excused by Mendoza.
But Aine Ahmed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Washington’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor, said the details the juror recalled, including ties to bad business deals in the North Dakota oil fields and contract killings, were facts that he would bring up at trial.
“That’s a factual dissertation of what’s been in the news,” Ahmed said. “That doesn’t mean he can’t impartially listen to the evidence.”
One woman took the stand as a potential juror and recounted multiple details of the prosecution’s case, including Henrikson’s name. She said she couldn’t remember where she read or saw those details, but they left an impression.
“It just sounded horrible,” she said. “That’s all I can say about that.”
Jurors far outnumbered observers on the first day of Henrikson’s trial, expected to last four to seven weeks as prosecutors make the case the 36-year-old ordered contract killings of Carlile and Kristopher Clarke, his employee on the Bakken shale oil fields who’s been missing since February 2012. The federal courtroom in Richland remained almost empty as Mendoza and attorneys questioned those who answered they’d heard something about the case.
Several jurors were excused because of work or medical issues related to the length of the trial.
Carlile’s family, who are scheduled to testify for the prosecution, were absent, though Mendoza ordered they could be in the courtroom for the entirety of the trial.
Those who do wind up serving on the panel may hear some snippets of interviews conducted with Henrikson in August 2012, after Clarke’s disappearance, and following his arrest on illegal firearms charges in January 2014. Prosecutors want to introduce portions of those recordings to reinforce the testimony of other witnesses.
Henrikson allegedly told investigators at the August 2012 interview that Clarke, who had disappeared six months before, was with Clarke’s grandfather. But multiple witnesses, including Henrikson’s former wife, Sarah Creveling, told investigators that wasn’t true. Prosecutors believe Henrikson may have disguised his voice in phone calls, posing as Clarke’s grandfather and claiming the 29-year-old was with him.
Prosecutors also allege in court documents that Henrikson was making plans to flee to Brazil around the same time Timothy Suckow was arrested and charged with shooting Carlile.
Mendoza ordered the tapes may be played, but the defense team is free to object during the trial.
Additional juror questioning is scheduled for Tuesday. Attorneys signaled opening arguments in the case could come as early as Thursday.
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