We’re still in the throes of jury selection in the Justin Ross Harris hot-car murder case, although it appears to be slogging toward a conclusion.
In this phase, Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley is qualifying a large panel of prospective jurors – a panel from which the final 12 and some alternates will be selected. Staley hasn’t said how many alternates she wants, and the number will affect how much longer jury selection will take.
Among those citizens qualified already, nearly a third have expressed the view that Harris is guilty. Several of them, but not all, said they could set aside their opinions and impartially evaluate the evidence laid before them.
The question, ultimately, is whether they really can, whether Harris can receive a fair trial from a jury on which some members admitted to a bias against Harris at the outset. The judge obviously believes that he can. Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore seems to have his doubts.
While arguing one of his challenges, he declared, his voice rising higher and higher: “We’re actually arguing over somebody who’s sat right there and said, ‘I think he’s guilty. I’m not impartial. I did not presume he’s innocent.’”
But a presumption of innocence is sometimes proving elusive among the prospective jurors in the Harris case.