Petties Trial Update

A jury has now been selected in the Petties drug case trial underway in Memphis Federal Court. The panel’s final member was selected late Thursday afternoon. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 13.

Jury selection went four days as the attorneys for Clinton and Martin Lewis, prosecutors and Judge Hardy Mays sought a jury of 12 and six alternates. The attorneys had a set number of challenges they can use to unseat potential jurors who make it to the jury box. But before that, Mays could disqualify a prospective juror who he feels shouldn’t be on the jury. And that’s where the process became difficult.

“Sometimes jurors ask me if I can tell time,” Mays quipped Thursday morning as the jury pool was ushered into his courtroom. “We have been working.”

While the jury pool was waiting elsewhere, he and the attorneys were reviewing questions he would put to individual prospective juror. One made it to the jury box just long enough to answer questions from Mays about upholding laws he may not agree with. Mays cited the example of federal legislation making it a crime for felons to possess guns — a law that has produced a flood of cases in recent years not just in Mays’ courtroom but the courtrooms of many other federal judges. Mays said he’s not a fan of the law, because there may be some cases where that person needs a gun for protection. But it’s a law and Mays said he has to uphold it until or unless Congress changes it.

The potential juror, however, didn’t see it that way. “To take away someone’s freedom, because of a bad law — I couldn’t do that.”

“You are excused,” Mays replied.

Another prospective juror answered a question about whether she knew anyone connected to the case by listing several of the people who were murdered allegedly by the Petties drug organization. Attorneys pondered why she didn’t say anything before she made it to the jury box. The issue quickly remedied itself when she said she would find it hard to be impartial. After a bench conference, she was excused.