CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lawyers involved in the triple murder "sniper" case against Shawn Thomas Lester, set for the end of the month, have begun the sometimes-difficult task of selecting 12 impartial citizens to sit as jurors in next month's trial.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said last week that about 160 Kanawha County residents received jury questionnaires in the mail last month. He expects to send out 500 more questionnaires next week in hopes that at least half of the people will respond.
Eighteen jurors -- 12 regulars and six alternates -- will make up the final panel. The trial could take four to six weeks, according to the questionnaire.
The questionnaire asks dozens of questions, including whether respondents know any of about 150 people who might be called as witnesses at the trial.
It also contains at least four questions about where prospective jurors get their TV news, which could give lawyers a clue as to jurors' political leanings.
The four questions ask how often respondents watch the news on CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC and Fox News.
"Generally, I think it's very invasive from a juror perspective," said Joseph Rice, of the Jury Research Institute, a consulting firm based in California.
Theoretically, the ideological distinctions are important to determine how much trust the juror places in authority, Rice said. Conservative jurors, for example, may be more likely to believe police officers, while liberal jurors may be more likely to question the power of the justice system.
But it's not even clear that ideological affiliation plays a role the quality of the jury panel, Rice said.
"I rarely find that party affiliation is a variable that tells the difference between a pro-prosecution and pro-defense person," he said.