With just a little more than a week to go before the start of the trial in the case of the U.S. v. Raniere, the jury selection process is almost complete.
But there are still several important issues that have to be resolved before the start of the trial on May 7th.
As Frank Report readers will remember, the jury selection process began with the identification of 500 randomly-selected, potential jurors.
Those 500 people were required to fill out a lengthy questionnaire that had been developed by the prosecution, reviewed by the defense attorneys, and then finalized by the presiding judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis.
Copies of the completed questionnaires were given to the defense attorneys and the prosecution team so that they could identify any jurors that they thought should be stricken from the jury pool “for cause”.
In this context, “for cause” includes jurors who may be inherently biased for one side or the other, jurors who could not be available for the 6-8 weeks that the trial is expected to last, etc.
Groups of potential jurors who had not been stricken “for cause” were brought in for follow-up interviews starting on Monday, April 22nd – and, one-at-a-time, were asked additional questions by Judge Garaufis in front of the attorneys for both sides.
Some of these potential jurors were then excused because of preexisting obligations or the potential hardship that being on the jury would cause for them. Others were excused because they had strong opinions on issues that might come up in the trial – like abortion – or because they had already heard about the case.
Finally, by the end of the day on Wednesday, April 24th, 55 potential jurors had made it through the interview process.
As reported by Amanda Holloway from Courthouse News, the plan now is to wait until May 6th – and then complete the selection of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.
During this last stage of the selection process, the defense attorneys will have 10 – and the prosecution will have 6 – peremptory challenges that they can use to strike anyone from being a juror or an alternate.
District Court judges generally have some latitude in terms of how jurors are handled before, during and after trials.
In this case, Judge Garaufis has already ruled that this will be an “anonymous jury” – meaning that “the names of the jurors will not be provided by the Court to anyone [other than the defense and prosecution], whether before, during or after the trial”.
Although Judge Garaufis indicated that jurors will be free to speak to the media or anyone else after the trial is over, he also said he will advise them not to do that:
Judge Garaufis said, “I…always recommend to the jurors that at the end of the trial, whatever their verdict is, that they leave the courthouse and they forget about what happened and go back to, you know, their normal lives and not be subject to press and other interference, if you will, with their normal life activities”.
Even though neither side made such a request, Judge Garaufis also decided that the jury in this case will be “semi-sequestered”.
What that means is that the members of the jury (and the alternates) will all meet at an undisclosed location prior to the start of each day of the trial.
From there, they will be escorted to the courthouse by U.S. Marshals – and brought in through an entrance that is not available to the general public or the media. The reverse process will be followed at the end of each day.
Although the judge said it appears the jurors on this case will not be in any actual danger, he opted to have them “semi-sequestered” in order to shelter them from the media or other interested parties.
Over the course of this week, Judge Garaufis will be issuing rulings on several important matters.
These include the following:
(1) Will the prosecution be allowed to show pictures of the 15-year-old girl who was part of Raniere’s harem? As described by the prosecution, these pictures “are part of a collection including two digital images of a juvenile nude female exposing her vagina, including one in which the minor victim’s legs are open and her inner labia are visible”.
(2) Will witnesses for the prosecution be required to disclose their full names in open court – or will they be allowed to use just their first name or a pseudonym.
(3) Will the NXIVM Corporation – which is currently being run by Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman, and Omar Boone – be able to prevent the prosecution from introducing certain evidence because doing so would violate the company’s attorney-client privilege rights?
Rhiannon was repeatedly raped by Keith Raniere when she was 12-13 years old – and wants to testify about that.
(4) Will the woman who claims she was repeatedly raped by Raniere back in the 1990s – when she was 12-13 years old – be allowed to testify about those incidents?
(5) Will the defense attorneys be allowed to introduce testimony from foreign witnesses via closed-circuit TV or will those witnesses be required to appear in person at the trial?
(6) Will the prosecution be allowed to utilize its designated expert witnesses even though those witnesses were identified after the deadline for identifying them?
Stay tuned, readers…The show is about to start!