Lawyers select jury for Barber trial

SARAH OLSEN, Evergreen reporter

About 48 Whitman County citizens holding green pieces of paper gathered outside the Superior Court clerk’s office Monday morning before the courthouse officially opened at 9 a.m.

The county summoned these individuals to jury duty for the former WSU football player Robert Barber’s felony assault trial, and took three hours to choose 12 jurors and one alternate juror from the group.

Of the 12 chosen jurors, five are female and seven are male, in addition to the alternate juror, who is female. The average age of the jury members is 58.

Fifty citizens were called, but two did not arrive. The potential jurors filled all courtroom benches as court administrators called them in one-by-one. Barber’s family and friends sat in the back row of the courthouse throughout the proceedings.

Prosecuting attorney Daniel LeBeau and Barber’s attorney Steve Graham asked the jurors questions based on their ability to consider the case without bias.

Twenty-five of the potential jurors said they heard about the case before today, but few stated they had a bias they could not ignore because of this prior knowledge. LeBeau asked each of these 25 jurors where they previously heard about the case and most said from the nightly news, the radio or the newspaper.

The Superior Court Judge Gary Libey called for a 40-minute recess, during which Graham and his associate, Anthony Martinez, conferred about the jury selection. By then, the lawyers narrowed down the jury pool to about 38 Whitman County citizens.

Some were excused because they worked night shifts and could not get out of those shifts for the next few days.

Detective Scott Patrick, who is also a witness in the case, sat at the table with LeBeau. One of the jurors was identified as a retired police officer who worked alongside Patrick for 20 years. However, the juror stated that this did not give him a bias.

When the lawyers moved onto peremptory challenges, 33 potential jurors remained. Peremptory challenges involve the lawyers writing on paper any jurors they wish to strike, handing them to the judge and then the opposing lawyer.

It was discovered that a father and son were both part of the potential jurors, but the son was excused because they run a farm, and at least one of them needed to be there over the next few days. At this point, LeBeau asked if anyone else knew any of the other potential jurors, to which more than half of them raised their hands. Whitman County’s population is just under 47,000 people.

Both sides each released a list of four witnesses they will call for testimony during the trial.