File: Pool Photo/Gregory J. Lamoureux/County Courier
Norm McAllister in court January 10, 2017
After two tedious days, lawyers in the sexual assault trial of former state senator Norm McAllister still have not managed to select a jury.
Attorneys continue to question prospective jurors individually. But of approximately 100 people summoned for the jury pool, 70 have been sent home for a variety of reasons: they've formed an opinion about the case, they have a personal connection to someone involved in the case or they have a personal connection to a sexual assault victim.
Deputy Franklin County State's Attorney John Lavoie and McAllister's attorney, Bob Katims, have each used three of their six allotted challenges. Judge Martin Maley said he wants to select four alternates to the 12-person jury.
Eight women and four men made it through preliminary questioning Tuesday in Franklin Superior Court, but they are not guaranteed to be on the final panel. And apparently, after two days of sitting in the St. Albans courtroom, some candidates are starting to get frustrated.
"When will we know if we've been picked?" a prospective juror blurted out to Judge Maley late Tuesday.
"Good question," he answered.
“At least the chairs up here are comfortable,” the prospective juror quipped.
McAllister, who faces one charge of sexual assault and two charges of prohibited acts, appeared relaxed throughout the proceeding.
In their questioning, Lavoie and Katims made clear that the trial will center on the credibility of the alleged victim and the issue of sexual consent. The woman told authorities that McAllister forced her to have sex with him in exchange for allowing her to live in a trailer on his Highgate farm.
"If a witness comes here and cries, is that, for you, is that totally believable?" Katims asked prospective jurors. "Just because they cry doesn't mean they are absolutely going to tell you the truth."
Katims has indicated he will question the alleged victim about previous instances of dishonesty, which Lavoie tried to address in his questioning.
"If a person who lied in the past and admits that — you think we should never pay attention to them again?" Lavoie asked. "Is there anyone who feels that way?”
No one in the jury box spoke up.
The lengthy jury selection is the latest twist in a drawn-out legal saga.
The case appeared over in January, when McAllister agreed to plead no contest to reduced charges that carried a maximum seven-year sentence.
The first McAllister trial, based on sexual assault claims from another alleged victim, ended in June 2016 after the woman admitted she lied under oath during the trial. Prosecutors hastily dropped the charges.
McAllister, who was arrested outside the Statehouse in 2015, ran for reelection while the case was pending, but lost in a primary last August.