A jury was chosen late Wednesday in a civil rights trial over Elliott Williams’ death in Tulsa’s jail, clearing the way for opening statements and testimony Thursday.
The jury is made up of five women and five men. Attorneys clashed Wednesday over attempts by the defense to remove all three black jurors from the pool. Two out of three black jurors were eliminated and one black juror remained in the final pool.
Opening statements are set to start Thursday morning. U.S. District Judge John Dowdell has set aside 15 days for the trial.
The lawsuit over Williams’ death names Sheriff Vic Regalado in his official capacity, former Sheriff Stanley Glanz in his individual capacity and the jail’s former medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc. CHC has already settled with Williams’ estate for an undisclosed amount and has been dismissed from the lawsuit.
Jury selection started with 55 people Wednesday morning in Dowdell’s courtroom. Potential jurors spent roughly five hours answering questions aimed at determining whether they were qualified to serve on the jury.
A few of the potential jurors said they had heard about the case. One, who was dismissed, said she had done “a lot of reading on Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office issues.”
Williams’ case drew national attention after a video of him dying in Tulsa’s jail was released to media in April 2016. The case was highly publicized again a few months later when Dowdell called Williams’ cell a “burial crypt.”
Dowdell asked potential jurors whether they’ve seen the video of Williams in Tulsa’s jail, which shows detention officers tossing trays of food at his feet and placing a cup of water barely outside of his reach over five days. No jurors had.
The video is expected to be a key piece of evidence for jurors in the trial.
Defense attorneys have argued that the Sheriff’s Office’s video showing Williams dying on the floor of a medical cell failed to capture him moving around, drinking and eating. However Dowdell ruled Wednesday that the jail video can be used by the plaintiff’s attorneys, rejecting an argument by defense attorney Clark Brewster that it was unreliable.
One potential juror said she used to lived next to Clark Brewster, a private attorney representing the Sheriff’s Office.
“He was a stealth neighbor,” the woman said.
When asked whether prospective jurors had been inside Tulsa’s David L. Moss, two said yes. Another two said they had been incarcerated before.