The process of selecting 15 grand jurors — 12 jurors and three alternates — to investigate the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and determine if Sheriff Stanley Glanz should be removed from office began on Monday.
But if the proceeding was a football game, there would have been a whistle sounded and a flag thrown for a false start.
On Monday, 26 of the 58 jurors who responded to the summons arrived to give Nightingale a list of reasons they felt they were not fit to be a grand juror. One man was on crutches, and Nightingale could be overheard asking him about his injury and if it would affect his ability to serve.
Nightingale eventually released six of those 26 people from service.
The assembled media expected the prospective jurors to be whittled down to 15 Monday and for the process to get started. But it looks like that will happen Tuesday instead.
Then the real fun begins.
I’ve never sat in on a grand jury voir dire process, but I’ve watched the process for felony jury trials a few times, and it’s a very interesting process. So on Tuesday, 52 people will return to Nightingale’s courtroom, where she’ll ask them a number of questions to try and decode if they’re fit to serve on a grand jury.
In a felony jury voir dire, it’s really the public’s first, best chance at getting a feel for the path the prosecutor and defense attorney plan to take for the trial. Each takes turns asking key questions of every potential juror, with the hope of seating a fair and impartial jury.
For instance, I once watched a jury be seated for a murder trial in which the defendant was accused of shooting and killing a 2-year-old boy during a home invasion. The defense attorney asked each potential juror if they used social media, if they were familiar with how it worked, and if they ever messaged anyone over a platform like Facebook.
That line of questioning was unique enough that I made note of it. When the trial started, it became clear the defendant’s defense was that he was messaging people on Facebook on his laptop at the time prosecutors alleged he was miles away, robbing a house and shooting a toddler.
Sure enough, a few days later, the jury agreed, and the defendant was set free.
Tuesday’s voir dire process will be a little bit different. Attorneys for We The People Oklahoma and the Sheriff’s Office will be present in the courtroom, but merely as spectators. They’ll take no active part in the questioning.
Instead, each side has already submitted a proposed list of juror questions to Nightingale. But, as has been the case for seemingly every turn of this tumultuous case, even those questions didn’t come without drama.
Phillips submitted her list of questions July 10, and said she chose that date because in Nightingale’s June 30th order to convene the grand jury, she wrote that the questions had to be filed 10 days before the jury was set to be convened. However, John Carwile, Glanz’s attorney, submitted his questions Friday, a week after that deadline.
So Phillips filed an objection to those questions Monday, “For the record,” she said. “We like to make records of things.”
As for what Nightingale will make of the submitted questions, we’ll find out Tuesday. The questions themselves are just suggestions Nightingale can take into consideration.